Tesla May Retake Crown As World’s Top EV Seller After Rivals Falter

Photo: Brandon Bell (Getty Images)
Photo: Brandon Bell (Getty Images)

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, April 2, 2024, and this is The Morning Shift, your daily roundup of the top automotive headlines from around the world, in one place. Here are the important stories you need to know.

1st Gear: BYD’s EV Sales Fall 40 Percent

After Tesla warned we should expect worse than projected sales in its next filings, rival BYD reported a disastrous drop in sales of its electric cars that could see it lose the crown as the top selling EV maker in the world. The Chinese EV maker claimed the title last year, but could now be set to lose it to second-place Tesla.

Chinese automaker BYD has reported that sales of its electric models fell 43 percent in the first quarter of 2024, according to Reuters. The drop is significantly higher than the decline Tesla is predicting, with the American company projecting a five percent sales drop. As Reuters explains:


BYD sold 300,114 EVs in the first quarter of this year, it said in a filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange late on Monday, down 43% from a record quarterly high of 526,409 units sold in the previous three-month period, when it surpassed Tesla. First-quarter sales were up 13.4% from a year ago.

But, the quarterly drop may mean Tesla will take back the sales title, based on forecasts for record sales of 458,500 vehicles in the quarter to March 31, per analysts polled by Visible Alpha. Tesla is set to report first-quarter sales on Wednesday.

BYD’s dominance at the top of the EV sales tree was short-lived and came off the back of a raft of price cuts for the Chinese automaker. The cuts came amid an intense price war that started in China and spread around the world, with automakers like Tesla, Rivian and Lucid all slashing the prices of their electric models.

Now, BYD will be hoping for a new way to reignite sales of its electric models, including expansion into new markets, the launch of new models and maybe even further cuts to its pricing.

Despite the slowdown in sales of electric models, BYD reported an overall increase in its volume sales for the first quarter of 2024. The company sold 626,263 units of all vehicle types, reports Reuters, which was up 13.4 percent compared with a year previously.

2nd Gear: Bentley Boss Hates Advanced Driver Assist

After announcing his departure from Bentley and move to Aston Martin, outgoing boss Adrian Hallmark is back in the news with his tirade against Level 3 driver assistance tech, arguing that it actually increases the risk of accidents behind the wheel.

Level 3 assistance features is one step above Tesla’s Full Self Drive system and means that a car can make informed decisions itself, such as overtaking a slow-moving vehicle. The tech is currently only offered in a handful of cars, with the first to hit the market coming from Honda with its SENSING Elite system.

Now, soon-to-be-ex-Bentley boss Hallmark has argued that such systems are more dangerous because they invariably ask for the driver to take back control without much notice. This, he argued, makes them more prone to crashes, reports Automotive News. As the site explains:

The risk of an accident comes when the car must hand control back to the driver, said Hallmark, who will take over as Aston Martin CEO later this year.

“We think Level 3 is dangerous from all the testing analysis that we have done because it relied too much on recovery of attention and intervention from the driver,” he told journalists on a conference call earlier this month.

Bentley will instead focus on providing a more sophisticated version of its Level 2 system, what it calls Level 2 Plus Plus, in its forthcoming full-electric car, which has been delayed unit late 2026.

Bentley isn’t the only VW Group company that’s hesitant to launch a Level 3 capable car. While BMW and Mercedes already have cars equipped with the tech on sale, German rival Audi has yet to join the fray. It remains to be seen how luxury brands like Bentley and compatriots Rolls Royce will implement advanced driver assistance tech such as this.

With Hallmark’s impending move to Aston Martin, how performance-focused brands will add it into their cars is also an unknown factor right now.

3rd Gear: America’s Headlights Are Too Damn Bright

You know what it’s like when you’re driving along at night and a car comes the other way, for a brief moment you see the light and feel like it’s all over as their headlights blind you. It’s a horrendous feeling that seems to be becoming all too common these days. Now, Americans have had enough of the blinding headlights that are filling our roads.

While the problem used to be as a result of selfish drivers parading around with their high beams on, it’s now a result of new LED headlights that are being fitted to modern cars. The lights are much brighter and now account for the lights on 76 percent of new cars sold in America, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The issue with drivers being blinded by new LED lights is, mostly, because of the angle at which lights are set, explains the WSJ. It encouraged motorists to check that theirs are set correctly, but added that newer lighting tech could also address the issue. As the site reports:

Mark Rea, a professor at the Icahn School Medicine at Mount Sinai, says geometry is partly to blame for the nuisance of LED lights. He does research for the school’s Light and Health Research Center, a small portion of whose financial support comes from carmakers and their suppliers.

Headlight misalignment is the primary contributor to glare, he says, and that glare is going to be more pronounced when an SUV’s or a truck’s headlights pass a lower-sitting car.

Rea says wider adoption of newer adaptive headlights—which have sensors that can redirect light—should make glare less of an issue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved the lights in 2022.

A spokeswoman for NHTSA, which sets requirements for headlight brightness, says the agency’s standards continue to limit the amount of glare directed toward oncoming and preceding traffic.

So next time you’re blinded by the lights of an oncoming car and worry that it’s a sign you’re getting old, remember that it’s probably not. Instead, it could just be a misaligned LED on the oncoming vehicle.

4th Gear: U.S. Traffic Deaths Fall

Despite blinding headlights now distracting drivers across America’s roads, the number of deaths on our highway network dropped in 2023. However, the decrease was not enough to see the number of deaths fall to below pre-pandemic levels.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 40,990 people died in traffic collisions last year, down from 42,514 in 2022, reports Automotive News. According to the site:

U.S. auto safety regulators on Monday said traffic deaths fell by 3.6 percent in 2023 to 40,990 — the second straight yearly decline — but are still significantly above pre-pandemic levels.

The fatality rate in 2023 was higher than any pre-pandemic year since 2008. Total miles driven last year topped pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

As U.S. roads became less crowded during the COVID-19 pandemic, some motorists perceived police as less likely to issue tickets, experts said, likely resulting in riskier behavior on the roads.

The number of deaths on U.S. roads jumped by a staggering 10.5 percent in 2021 following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite far fewer people driving around town to get to and from work as people pivoted to staying home. The increases continued into 2022, but last year marks the first fall in traffic deaths on U.S. roads. Here’s hoping it’s a trend that can continue this year and into the future.

Reverse: Let The Trials, Begin!

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