Chinese domestic EV makers report January sales decline following Tesla price cuts

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China’s top domestic high-end EV manufacturers: Nio (NYSE:NIO), XPeng (NYSE:XPEV), and Li Auto (NASDAQ:LI), all recorded monthly and year-on-year sales declines in January, with some of the drops exceeding 50%. The weakness follows disrupted production and sales slowed by the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday, as well as recent Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) price cuts and the end of a government subsidy.

Nio reportedly delivered 8,506 vehicles to mainland customers in January, down 46.2% from December and 11.9% from the same period in 2022. While XPeng said its January deliveries dropped 53.8% from a month earlier to 5,218 units, representing a year-on-year decline of 59.6%. Li Auto delivered 15,141 vehicles to buyers, 28.7% fewer than in December and 23.4% below January 2022 deliveries.

Most carmakers suspended manufacturing and sales during the Lunar New Year holiday from January 21 to 27, which contributed to a slower start to the year. Also, a cash subsidy granted to EV buyers phased out on January 1. However, analysts see Tesla’s recent price reductions as a major factor in declining numbers.

“Apparently, Tesla’s huge discounts [on its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles] siphoned off drivers’ buying interest in the Chinese-developed smart EVs,” said Gao Shen, an independent analyst in Shanghai. “Overall demand for expensive EVs appears to be weak, which could lead to price wars in the premium EV segment this year.”

Tesla’s sales shot up 76% to 12,654 cars in the week of January 9 to January 15, compared with the previous seven days, according to data compiled by China Merchants Bank.

Xpeng followed Tesla’s price reductions by cutting their own prices on January 17, offering discounts of up to 13% on some of its models to make its cars more accessible for Chinese drivers.

Shares of NIO, XPEV and LI are up 1.04%, 2.83% and 6.63% respectively in pre-market trading while shares of TSLA are up 1.67%.