Elon Musk sees his leadership as the world leader in sales of electric cars threatened. The sales balance for the last quarter of 2023 places BYD ahead of Tesla for the first time, although the American company maintains its hegemony by once again closing the year as the top producer of zero-emission cars.

Tesla’s advantage over BYD (1.81 million units delivered compared to 1.57 million) is increasingly narrow and everything indicates that in 2024 the Chinese manufacturer will take the lead. A possibility that Musk himself has contemplated for a long time, based on what he said in January 2023 when he stated that Chinese car manufacturers are the ones that “work harder and smarter.”

Without mentioning any specific brand, Musk then saw how BYD’s advance in the market represented a serious threat to Tesla. The course of the year would end up proving right to the CEO of Tesla who now sees how the Chinese electric car manufacturer that hides under the poetic acronym BYD (Build your dreams) is close to surpassing him as the world leader in sales.

The dream of BYD is the dream of Wang Chuanfu, the owner of the brand, a self-made entrepreneur like many other entrepreneurs who started from scratch. Chanfu was born in 1966 in the agricultural province of Anhui, one of the poorest in China, into a farming family with eight children. His father, affected by liver cancer, died when he was 13 years old, leaving only a house in poor condition as an inheritance.

The mother had to fight hard to get ahead while her sisters were getting married one after another so as not to be a family burden. An 18-year-old brother had to leave school to dedicate himself to commerce and her little sister was given up for adoption due to the difficulties the family was going through in being able to support her.

All this gave Wang strength to change the destiny of his family. He vowed to enter a technical high school and secure a job that would provide him with “a bowl of national rice,” a stable livelihood, to help his mother and her siblings lead a better life.

Wang Chuanfu still had to face another serious setback, the death of his mother, when he was a high school student. The blow caused him to drop out of school. But the support of his older brother and his sister-in-law provided him with the necessary strength to overcome the difficult situation and continue with his studies. This is how the current owner of BYD graduated in Chemistry from Central South University in 1987 and later obtained a master’s degree in metallurgy.

With his university degree under his belt, Chuanfu was recommended to the Beijing Metals Research Institute. After a few years at the center, working as a doctoral and master’s professor, in 1993 fate made a commercial agreement with the Baosteel group change his life. He was appointed CEO of the newly created company dedicated to the manufacture of nickel-hydrogen batteries, and his desire to become a scientist dissipated as quickly as he gained momentum to enter the business field.

In 1994, Wang proposed the creation of a national structure to capitalize on the nickel-cadmium battery industry, following the withdrawal of Japan, a major producer, due to environmental considerations. However, the rigidity of the Chinese state system prevented Wang Chuanfu from developing his strategy. Faced with this circumstance, he took the opportunity to give up a fixed salary (the famous “national rice bowl”) and ventured into the business world.

In 1995, Chuanfu and his cousin Lu Xiangyang founded BYD with the collaboration of their families, who managed to raise the $300,000 needed to start the company. Initially, the company was exclusively dedicated to the mobile device battery business. However, in just five years, BYD made the meaning behind its acronym a reality and the startup not only continued to manufacture mobile batteries but also components for portable phones from such well-known brands as Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

The success with batteries for mobile phones allowed the cousins ​​to give a twist to their business. They were open to the possibility of entering the world of batteries for electric cars and signed an agreement to take control of Qinchuan Machinery Work, a modest automobile manufacturer that was on the verge of bankruptcy. This is how BYD Auto was born in 2003.

Although it may seem paradoxical, the first car that the new automotive company manufactured was a combustion engine model. BYD’s F3 sedan came onto the market in 2005 to compete directly with the Volkswagen Jetta and the Toyota Corolla and in a short time it became a benchmark in the sector for its quality-price balance.

But Wang Chuanfu’s visionary skills were what led BYD to change its business model and decisively bet on electromobility. This decision disconcerted the shareholders, who in 2008 got rid of their securities, causing the company to lose 31% of its value in just three days.

Fortunately for Chuanfu, the maneuver of its shareholders did not go unnoticed by Warren Buffet. The American investor, with a long history of acquiring stakes in companies that he considers undervalued, came to the rescue of BYD and his financial injection served to ensure that just a year later the company’s first electric vehicle, a bus, left its facilities. 12 meters long and a range of 250 kilometers.

This was the starting point of BYD’s specialization as an electric vehicle manufacturer that has led the Chinese company to become a serious threat to Tesla. Its electric models that are available in the Spanish market – Dolphin, Atto 3, Seal, Han and Tang – combine quality with competitive prices, which has contributed to its growing success in the electric mobility sector.