Tesla's Only Challenger

Chinese automaker BYD sold 700,244 vehicles in the second quarter. Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) delivered 466,140 for the same period. Granted, BYD is not a global company. By the same token, China is the world’s largest car market by far. (These are the 13 biggest electric vehicle business failures in American history.)

Tesla and BYD each have a problem. The U.S.-based company sold 64,285 cars in China in July. That is a jump of 128% but still puts it well behind BYD in the market. Also, Tesla’s sales dropped 31% from June.

BYD, on the other hand, sells almost no cars outside China. It may not for some time. The company says it has no plans to enter the United States. That leaves the world’s second-largest car market to Tesla and new competitors, which include Ford.

BYD can afford expansion, either in China or overseas. Its profits in the first half were $1.5 billion. Its growth is almost guaranteed. “BYD is targeting mass market where Tesla cannot reach,” said Vivek Vaidya, associate partner at Frost & Sullivan, on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.”

One wildcard for Tesla and other Western car makers is whether rising tension with the Chinese government will lead to restrictions on sales. China has done as much to other industries before.

Wall Street still assumes that Tesla will be, by far, the largest EV company in the world. Its market cap is $760 billion. Shares are up 93% this year.

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