‘Don’t bet against BYD being the car company of the year in 2024’

Mike Rutherford looks at the sales figures from 2023 and notices a growing trend heading into 2024

Opinion - BYD

The year just gone was the most dramatic ever for the rise and rise of newer, fresher, humbler firms with ‘can do’ attitudes. But it must be acknowledged that the door to sales success was conveniently and stupidly left wide open to these companies. For this, several longer-established, staler, sleepier, ‘more prestigious’ (or maybe not) rival outfits based in countries such as Germany, France and Britain were caught napping.

Across 2023, several hard-working manufacturers not so strong on heritage but with confidence, ambition and raw talent, took on and beat their seemingly complacent, allegedly superior rivals where it matters most – on the showroom floors.

In Division 1 of the UK’s ’23 new-car sales contest, VW remained the undisputed champ, Ford the worthy runner-up, with Audi grabbing the final podium place. Thanks to a last-minute rush in registrations during the run-up to Christmas and New Year, BMW just clung on to fourth ahead of Toyota, Kia and Vauxhall. Nissan overtook Mercedes, with Hyundai rounding off the Top 10 and surely poised to gain some more places this year.

Division 2’s undisputed champ in ’23 was China-owned MG, with a mind-blowing 59 per cent increase in sales versus 2022. The dark horse that is Skoda comfortably secured the number two slot, which meant that this highly impressive pair dumped Peugeot into third, although the French firm at least managed to stay way ahead of the chasing pack comprising Land Rover, Volvo, Tesla, MINI, Renault, SEAT and Citroen. Who’d have ever imagined that shortly after killing off its British production lines, little ol’ MG would rapidly go on to massively outsell its former Midlands family members (Land Rover, MINI and Jaguar) who all decided to keep their UK factories alive?

Mazda sits top of Division 3, but with Dacia and its sub-£20k (really?) Spring EV plus other bargain products imminent, the Japanese firm is almost certain to be overtaken by the Romanian brand soon. Heroic Suzuki and onwards-and-upwards Cupra did the unthinkable by outselling once-mighty Honda. Porsche was next, while Fiat looked highly precarious in seventh place. Lexus happily settled for eighth ahead of Jaguar and new-kid-on-the-block Polestar which must be confident that, as it beds into the UK market before greatly expanding its product range in the coming months, it will easily overtake Jaguar, and possibly others, by the end of 2024.

Other firms worthy of mention are Alpine, which didn’t even manage to sell one car a day in 2023; Smart, which could only move two daily; and Maxus, which shifted one vehicle per month. Sustainable? I think not. On a more productive note, despite only being on the UK scene for a few months, BYD has eaten up these three vulnerable minnows, and is also outselling Abarth, Fisker, GWM Ora, Maserati and Ineos over here. Separately, it has just been revealed that, on the global stage, BYD has overtaken Tesla.

BYD, the 2024 Best Car Company of the Year here and worldwide? Don’t bet against it.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section...

Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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