Tesla official talks up Southeast Asia expansion as China’s BYD pulls ahead

(Reuters) – Tesla’s (TSLA.O), opens new tab expansion into Southeast Asia is a priority, a senior executive said on Tuesday, highlighting the fast-growing market where the U.S. electric-vehicle maker faces competition from China’s BYD.

The region has emerged as one of the hottest EV markets in recent years and could offer Tesla a large customer base at a time when demand is slowing in the United States.

“Southeast Asia will undoubtedly be a major place of growth over the coming years in battery storage and electric vehicle adoption,” Rohan Patel, senior public policy and business development executive at Tesla, said in a post on X.

Patel was responding to a user post that marked the first deliveries of the Model Y cars in Malaysia. The company also sells its Model 3 compact sedan in the country.

The Malaysian government had last year given Tesla the license to sell its cars in the country and said the firm would also establish a network of charging stations there.

Tesla is also in talks for expanding its operations in other countries, including in Thailand, which is Southeast Asia’s largest car producer and exporter.

A Thai government official said earlier this month that the company had discussed a potential production facility after surveying a site late in 2023.

Still, Tesla’s ambitions for Southeast Asia will have to contend with competition from BYD, which has shot past rivals to account for more than a quarter of the EVs sold in the region.

In contrast with Tesla’s direct-to-consumer approach, BYD has partnered with large, local conglomerates that have allowed the carmaker to expand reach, test consumer preferences and navigate complex government regulations in the region.

The Chinese EV maker sold more than 26% of all cars in Southeast Asia’s small but fast-growing EV market in the second quarter of 2023, while Tesla accounted for about 8%, according to Counterpoint.

EVs constituted 6.4% of all passenger vehicle sales in the region in the quarter, up from 3.8% in the preceding quarter.

Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath