Americans Can’t Buy China’s EVs—Yet. That Could Change Soon.

Chinese electric vehicle giant BYD sold nearly the same amount of battery-driven cars as Tesla in the third quarter this year. But none of those went to American buyers.

Chinese EVs, however, might be moving closer to the U.S. market in the coming years despite the roadblocks.Chinese EVs have huge cost advantages over their Western peers, thanks to generous government support, cheaper labor costs, and rapid technological advances. And they are getting cheaper, while the reverse is happening in Europe and the U.S.

The price points are especially important for people on the fence of making the shift from gasoline and diesel cars. In the U.S. and Europe, lower-end EVs can cost 50% more than entry-level gasoline-powered cars. The cheapest EVs in China, in comparison, already cost less than its fuel-driven equivalent.That explains why the Chinese EV market is growing much faster than the West, now accounting for about two thirds of the total sales around the globe.

BYD is the leader in China’s battery EV market, with 26% market share in the first eight months of 2023, according to the China Passenger Car Association. Rivals include GAC, Wuling Motor Holdings (0305: Hong Kong), Geely Automobile Holdings (175:Hong Kong), and Chongqing Changan Automobile (000625: China). Start-ups like Nio (NIO) and Xpeng (XPEV) are also taking off. Tesla (TSLA) is the only foreign seller making into the top 10, with a market share of 13.5%.

The fast growth has already stoked fears in the European auto industry. In September, the European Commission launched an investigation into whether Beijing’s subsidies for China’s EV industry has kept prices artificially low. The Chinese government, in response, called the probe “naked protectionism”.Chinese EVs are quickly expanding in other overseas markets from Southeast Asia to the Mideast to Latin America. But they haven’t made any inroads in the U.S.

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