Elon Musk has made no secret of his admiration for Chinese electric vehicle makers and for the work ethic in the Asian country, especially after Tesla opened its first overseas vehicle assembly plant in Shanghai in late 2019.

In January this year, when asked to name the company's toughest competitor, Tesla's CEO replied "some company out of China," without providing a name.

"They work the hardest and they work the smartest. And so if I were to guess, probably some company out of China is the most likely to be second to Tesla," Musk said. He was probably referring to the likes of BYD, Nio and XPeng, to name only a few of the most prominent EV makers from China.

Chances are Musk was referring to BYD, China's leading EV maker, although his opinion of the Chinese company wasn't always positive.

In a 2011 Bloomberg interview, Musk burst out laughing when the reporter suggested BYD as a potential rival for Tesla in the electric vehicle space. "Have you seen their car?" Musk replied, adding that he didn't see BYD as a competitor at all. 


Well, more than a decade later, Elon Musk has changed his mind about BYD. Responding to a snippet of the 2011 interview posted on Twitter, Musk clarified that a lot of things changed since then, and BYD cars are now very impressive.

"That was many years ago. Their cars are highly competitive these days," Musk wrote. In fairness, lots of things changed since 2011. Tesla has grown from an EV startup into the world's leading EV maker and the most valuable automaker by market capitalization.

In the meantime, BYD has evolved from making uninspiring cars to being the leader of China's NEV (New Energy Vehicle) market and a company that is rapidly expanding worldwide.

BYD actually sells more electrified cars than Tesla, though it has to be said that its sales statistics cumulate plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and battery-electric vehicles (BEV).

In 2022, BYD sold more than 1.85 million plug-in electric cars globally, 946,238 of which were BEVs. That's not that far behind Tesla, which delivered 1.3 million BEVs worldwide last year.

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