BEIJING, February 6 (TMTPOST)—Recently, Zhao Changjiang, the General Manager of BYD Denza Sales Division, made a public response on social platform Weibo, saying that that Denza N7 will outperform Tesla Model Y, sending a clear signal that BYD is ready to go head-to-head with Tesla in the field of intelligence.
Earlier, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on social platform X that Tesla is not just a car maker but an AI robotics firm, when asked about “how do you see Tesla being dethroned by BYD.”
BYD surpassed Tesla in the fourth quarter of 2023 in terms of pure electric vehicle deliveries. Musk’s post not only highlighted Tesla's strength in intelligent software but also seemed to subtly criticize BYD for its perceived lack of emphasis on intelligence.
In 2024, the two long-standing players in the new energy race, BYD and Tesla, are destined to engage in fierce competition once again, this time in the field of intelligence.
BYD made remarkable achievements in 2023. The Chinese automaker dominated the new energy vehicle market, achieving a staggering sales record of over three million units, a remarkable 62.3% year-on-year increase. This performance not only secured BYD's position as the top-selling new energy car manufacturer globally but also positioned it among the few companies to successfully meet their annual targets in 2023.
On the other front, despite losing the global new energy sales crown to BYD, Tesla delivered 1.81 million new cars in 2023, maintaining a strong global influence and firmly holding the top spot in the mid-high-end market.
The intriguing turn of events came at the beginning of the year with the series of moves by Denza, BYD's new energy brand targeting the mid-high-end market. This brand is now directly challenging Tesla, adding a touch of excitement to the performance-based competition with a spicy interaction between Zhao and Elon Musk on social media.
While BYD has already claimed the title of the world's top-selling new energy car, and in 2023 introduced leading technologies, it has been considered somewhat conservative in the arena of intelligence. Many perceived BYD as less focused on advanced intelligent driving technologies. "Autonomous driving is a hoax," BYD founder Wang Chuanfu reportedly said.
However, recent developments suggest that this perception might be a misunderstanding of BYD's endeavor in intelligence. Faced with Tesla's potential advantage in the mid-high-end market above 200,000 yuan (US$ 28,175) with Full Self-Driving (FSD) technology, various emerging carmakers are throwing money in in-car operating systems and intelligent driving technologies to gain an edge.
BYD, it seems, no longer needs to explicitly emphasize the sophistication of its DM-i system. BYD's bold move with Denza brand challenging Tesla signifies that 2024 will be a turning point for intelligent electric vehicles.
Denza, the brand owned by BYD, seems ready to shed its previous low-key image in intelligence and formally take on industry giants. During the 2024 Denza User Communication Day, Zhao announced that the keywords for Denza in 2024 are cutting-edge technology and intelligence.
In the auto industry, the competition is not just for market share but also a broader battle between new technologies and the trend towards intelligence that will reshape the overall driving experience.
"In the past, users judged luxury cars by their logos; now, the technology is the key. The year of 2024 is the technology year for Denza," Zhao noted.
In 2024, Denza plans to put its entire vehicle intelligence technology into mass production. This includes functions such as high-speed Navigation on Autopilot (NOA), Remote Parking Assist (RPA), and Automatic Parking Assist (APA). On the handling side, they aim to achieve a turning diameter of less than 10 meters for vehicles longer than 5.2 meters, making large and small cars equally easy to drive. In terms of safety, the Moose Test is expected to achieve a speed close to 90 km/h, so as to enhance safety.
Denza's models will undergo a comprehensive upgrade in intelligence. Additionally, it will launch three flagship models, including the dual-flagship sedan released in the first half of 2024 (directly targeting Porsche Panamera and Mercedes-Maybach S-Class), and the Denza N9, a brand-new SUV planned for the end of the year.
Notably, Denza's intelligent driving technology does not entirely follow Tesla's pure vision route but opts for a combination of high-precision map infrastructure and a "light map" solution. The latter can overcome the openness and regional limitations of high-precision maps, allowing intelligent driving capabilities to quickly spread nationwide.
At the same time, Denza is demonstrating "Denza speed" in channel distribution. As of now, Denza has opened 370 direct-operated stores, covering 135 cities nationwide. Going ahead, Denza will continue to expand its service network, and provide more diverse user activities.
Regarding Denza's sales target for 2024, Zhao also expressed confidence in line with his bold “declaration”. In 2024, Denza aims to achieve a total annual sales target of 200,000 units, with the Denza D9 targeting 120,000 units. Denza's internationalization process will also take a step forward. According to Zhao, "Denza will be the first to sell in Hong Kong and Macau this year, and Denza has also become an official partner of the European Championship, making debuts at more international auto shows."
To achieve these goals, Denza kicked off 2024 with an unprecedented OTA New Year's gift for users, updating over 60 key functions covering intelligent cabin, intelligent driving, and intelligent chassis. Features in this upgrade, such as high-speed NOA, RPA, and APA experience optimization, enhance Denza's competitiveness in the intelligence race.
Meanwhile, Wang declared that BYD would invest 100 billion yuan (US$14 billion) in the field of intelligence in the future. This significant investment, four times the total R&D expenses of BYD in 2023 and comparable to the total funding raised by Xiaomi's automotive venture, signals BYD's ambitious plan for the future of automotive intelligence.
Priced at over 300,000 yuan (US$42,262), Denza N7 is undoubtedly competitive in traditional product strength. The market's expectations for this model are pinned on its claimed advanced intelligent driving functions, a goal that BYD is striving to achieve.
While Tesla's Model Y remains a bestseller globally, the localization of FSD in the Chinese market remains uncertain. In this context, if Denza N7 can first perfect the intelligent driving experience and gain market recognition, surpassing Model Y may no longer be an unattainable goal.
In 2024, the competition in the new energy vehicle market shows no signs of relenting, with price wars becoming commonplace in the low-end segment. The pursuit of advanced technology is vital for automakers to win an ultimate race for high-end EV products.