This year is shaping up as the toughest yet for Tesla in Australia.
The brand lost its place in the EV sales race to BYD in January, when its two models were tangled in red tape.
Tesla sales were hamstrung by a ship that was turned around due to biosecurity concerns, along with recalls and rectification work for missing child seat tethers in the latest Model 3.
Elon Musk’s EV brand hit speed bumps just as China’s BYD found top gear, recording a fourfold sales increase following the introduction of the BYD Dolphin hatchback and BYD Seal sedan to join the BYD Atto 3 compact SUV late last year.
The brand recorded 1310 deliveries last month, well more than the 267 examples sold in January last year.
Luke Todd, managing director of BYD importer EV Direct, says “it is great to see BYD topping the EV sales charts for the first time in Australia”.
“With models from under $40,000, BYD is delivering on its commitment to make it easier for
drivers to transition to more sustainable vehicles and allowing more Australians to take
advantage of the cost savings of driving an EV,” he says.
Electric cars have never been cheaper.
BYD is offering $2023 cash back on the Atto 3, while rival brand GWM is currently offering 2023-plate examples of the Ora electric car for a little more than $37,000 drive-away in NSW, undercutting the BYD Dolphin and MG4 electric by about $4000.
Tesla isn’t doing deals on the Model 3 or Model Y.
It has a huge backlog of deliveries to catch up with after a car carrying ship, the Glovis Caravel, was turned around after insects were found in its cargo.
While Tony Weber, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries says “sales of battery electric vehicles appear to have plateaued during recent months”, Tesla should catch up to strong sales numbers that made it one of Australia’s best-selling brands from time to time.
But it will have to convince customers to swerve around a tide of rival metal including the first electric cars from Toyota, Subaru and Volkswagen, as well as new machines from established alternatives including Hyundai and Polestar.