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Cult electric car brand drops off as Chinese-giant BYD nabs three top EV spots in Australia

Tesla has been forced to drop prices as competitors like BYD enter the Aussie market. But which is the best selling electric car?

The Tesla Y Model was the most sold electric vehicle in Australia over the first six months of 2024.
The Tesla Y Model was the most sold electric vehicle in Australia over the first six months of 2024. (Supplied)

More Australians are making the transition to an electric vehicle (EV) as competition heats up and prices have dropped. Chinese giant BYD has started to give dominant Tesla a run for its money, creeping up the list of best sellers in the 2024 financial year.

Of the 632,412 new vehicles bought by Aussie drivers from January to June, 50,219 were battery-powered EVs, according to fresh data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCIAI). And just over 45 per cent were either a Tesla Model Y or Model 3.

But, that’s a dive from the 59.5 per cent market share the company had last year as BYD claimed three spots in the top 10 best-seller list.

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More than a dozen Chinese EV brands have announced or are expected to launch in the Australian market in the next few months, putting more pressure on Tesla, which is boasting its smallest market share on record.

With so much competition, car expert Paul Maric told Yahoo Finance Australians would be lured in by price cuts.

"It's all been spurred on by Chinese brands who have started bringing in much more affordable electric vehicles to what we're used to," he said.

"It's Tesla that's probably been the most surprising. To have your key volume player in a segment ... take the Model Y for example, it peaked at $72,000, it's now $55,000. To take that much money out is quite remarkable to see."

The Chinese-made BYD has risen in the ranks, with the Seal ranking number three in the top 10, right after Tesla.
The Chinese-made BYD has risen in the ranks, with the Seal ranking number three in the top 10, right after Tesla. (Supplied)

There has been an influx of Teslas arriving in Australia and with other cheaper brands taking their customers, "the only way they can get rid of them is by dropping the prices".

"You're talking about a car that somehow has lost almost $20,000 overnight or over a period of several months for no reason at all other than to sell more stock," Maric said.

There are also some handsome rebates ($6,000 in Queensland) and freebies on offer for those thinking of making the switch. Check out our state-by-state breakdown here.

  1. Tesla Model Y - 12516

  2. Telsa Model 3 - 10600

  3. BYD Seal - 4092

  4. BYD Atto 3 - 3726

  5. MG 4 - 2771

  6. BYD Dolphin - 1248

  7. BMW iX1 - 1237

  8. BMW i4 - 1177

  9. Kia EV6 - 1060

  10. Volvo EX30 - 1001

Purchases have eased slightly in the first half of 2024 after more than doubling from 2022 to 2023.

A poll of nearly 10,000 Yahoo Finance readers found 73 per cent wouldn't buy an EV right now, while another survey of more than 5,000 people saw 61 per cent say a lack of trust is the biggest reason stopping them from buying an EV.

A further 34 per cent said cost was the biggest factor.

Experts have claimed Australians are still apprehensive about making the jump due to “range anxiety”.

Across Australia, there are roughly 2,500 charging stations. For comparison, there are approximately 6,500 petrol stations, which have several bays to let motorists fill up.

In a nation like Canada, EV drivers can choose from 7,000 charging locations.

The federal government has committed to building fast chargers every 150 kilometres on national highways, with the FCIAI reiterating it was a “crucial” move to increase the update of electric vehicles in Australia.

FCAI Chief Executive Tony Weber said easing this concern could lead to record sales.

“We hope to break the significant milestone of 100,000 EV sales in 2024,” Weber said.

Outside of range anxiety, there are some other general concerns with the electric vehicle market.

HIGH INSURANCE COSTS: It is more expensive to insure an EV than it is to insure a combustion engine car and the difference can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

A Tesla driver said comprehensive insurance for his EV would be between $5,073 and $5,175 based on two quotes from different insurers.

In comparison, insurance for his Kia was quoted as being between $900 and $1,053.

Tesla insurance quote
An Australian was blown away by the cost of insurance on a Tesla. (Source: Facebook)

The peak insurance body told Yahoo Finance there were a few factors that played into the higher premiums.

  • Batteries and motor parts “more complex” and more expensive to fix or replace (between $7,500 and $30,000 or up to 40 per cent of the EV’s total value)

  • Limited number of qualified services centres and technicians

  • Requirement to import parts and need for specialty equipment for disposing or recycling batteries

BRUTAL SECOND-HAND MARKET: CarExpert.com founder Maric told Yahoo Finance EV owners should update their car every two to three years to capitalise on new car and battery warranties (along with more developed tech).

But this has seen second-had EVs sell for a fraction of their purchase price.

Sales data from 2023 for regular used cars show they lost 14.1 per cent of their value when sold between two to four years after their manufacture date. For EVs, that depreciation is 42.4 per cent for the same period.

"The reason behind that is now being driven by people who paid top dollar for their cars trying to get out of them as quickly as they can," he revealed.

"It's basically a firesale. They want to sell their car first so they're not left holding this expensive asset they can't get rid of.

"And we're going to see more and more of that with people that have taken out three or four-year leases on these Tesla vehicles that came out around the time the government started announcing all these cost benefits for employees."

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