Tesla Model Y: China’s electric SUV market is getting more competitive, both locally and in exports

Chinese EV manufacturers have followed Tesla’s aggressive price cuts by reducing prices on their own electric SUVs. This has resulted in the price gap between electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles getting smaller in China.

Tu Le, founder of Beijing-based advisory firm Sino Auto Insights, predicted that Chinese carmakers would likely see a lot of exports. “We’re going to see a lot of Chinese exports because of the ultra-competitive market in China. It’s actually going to be a pressure release valve,” Le said.

In the past decade, the market for SUVs in China has skyrocketed, now accounting for nearly 40% of all car sales, as noted in a Reuters report. There are also 400 SUV models of all fuel types in the country. Since Tesla began delivering its China-produced Model Y two years ago, the popularity of electric SUVs has surged, making it one of the fastest-growing segments in the world’s largest auto market.

The Model Y has performed very well in China’s domestic market. The vehicle has taken its place as one of the country’s best-selling premium SUVs several times as of writing.

Legacy automakers like Volkswagen, BMW, and Toyota have suggested that they are also relying on new electric SUVs to boost their sales in China. In response to Tesla’s price reductions, competitors like Xpeng, Leapmotor, and others have offered their own discounts, while BYD provided a $1,000 discount on its market-leading Song Plus SUV.

BYD’s discount suggests that Tesla’s aggressive pricing strategy is affecting the market. BYD, after all, already outsells Tesla in raw volumes of new energy vehicles in China.

Other companies have opted to introduce new models with lower-than-expected starting prices, longer driving ranges, and advanced driver-assist features to remain competitive. These include Geely’s premium EV brand Zeekr, which priced its new compact crossover, the Zeekr X, from $27,500. That makes the X 28% cheaper than the Model Y and just about the same price as a Honda CR-V.

The intense competition in China’s SUV segment has been recognized by a number of the auto industry’s titans. Ford CEO Jim Farley acknowledged that the competition for two-row, SUV-styled EVs is a driver of Chinese automakers’ export boom. GM CEO Mary Barra, on the other hand, highlighted that China has “100 vehicle brands vying for sales.”

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