The BYD Seal Will NOT Be Disrupting Model 3 Sales In Malaysia

Tesla has nothing to fear about the local launch of the BYD Seal, which is not necessarily a good thing for everyone involved…

In just less than 24 hours from the publication of this piece, BYD will have unveiled its new Seal over here. And if the whispers on the grapevine are to be believed, this latest addition to the Chinese EV giant’s local lineup has trained its sights directly at the Tesla Model 3. 

So given this to be the case, it therefore does beg the question as to whether or not the local arrival of this Seal will actually cause a serious dent in Model 3 sales over here? A question that is especially pertinent to ask when considering that both Tesla and BYD currently engaging in an all-out sales war for worldwide EV supremacy, with the most obvious fallout of this being for the former having to heavily slash prices of its cars just to stay competitive in the home market of the latter. 

Well, fortunately for Tesla over here at least, the short answer to whether the Seal encroachment question in Malaysia will seriously dampen Model 3 sales is more likely than not a resounding no. In fact, there might even be the rather reasonable argument that BYD will have to seriously put in the work to sway interested parties away from the all-conquering American EV to its latest model over here.  

Now the main rationale behind this hypothesis stems from what can possibly be dubbed as the iPhone syndrome, where people still flock by the thousands to procure the latest model of Apple’s smartphone every year, in spite of there being arguably better Android-based alternatives out there. And Tesla, much like the iPhone, still (for all its many flaws) has that air of high-tech cool around it, with this first large wave predominantly tech-centric EV early adopters being more likely to be persuaded to it over anything else (like a Mercedes-Benz or BMW, much less a BYD) for primarily that reason alone.   

And just to back this aforementioned point up with some contemporary proof, Tesla’s strong brand appeal could be said in being a large part as to why smart has only managed to shift 200 units of its similarly-priced #1 over here in the past 3 months since its launch, despite there potentially being evidence that points to it being a better overall EV than the Model 3. Just as a taster to what the Seal vs Model 3 commercial battle might look like over here as well, a quick peek at the delivery figures for January in Singapore for both cars show for the latter to have outsold the former by a dominant factor of 10 to 1. 

For what its worth too with the prior iPhone-Tesla analogy, it would be remissed to mention that the American EV automaker does also indeed provide an almost Apple-like seamless charging experience with their walled-garden Supercharging network. Add to that (what many claim at least to be) a superior infotainment system as well as better EV tech specs, and the Seal might even lose those who have yet to drink the Musk-flavoured Kool aid. 

Having said that, BYD could well still persuade a whole bunch of prospective Model 3 buyers to opt for its new Seal, if it came wearing a price tag that no one could possibly refuse. And this is not to be too far fetched an idea for the Chinese EV giant too, as this has after all been its modus operandi thus far to gain market share in every country it enters, with both its Dolphin and Atto 3 over here being priced low enough to have persuaded more than a few Malaysians to give the all-electric experience a try. 

Unfortunately though, a little birdie did once tweet that part of the reason why this Seal took such a long time to enter the local market is precisely because BYD couldn’t bring the price of it low enough to rival the RM 189k starting price of the Model 3. So given that the Seal is looking likely to be priced in the same region, it could possibly already therefore be concluded that this particular Chinese e-sedan may well just become another brides-maid to Tesla’s Model 3 in the EV sales chart over here, right next to the smart #1 and all the other myriad of sub-RM 200k new cars in Malaysia. 

Post-launch addendum: Having since been officially launched, it is now known for the Seal to cost from RM 179,900 in Malaysia. This does undercut the Tesla Model 3’s base price by RM 10,000, but the argument still somewhat stands on whether RM 10,000 is a big enough sum to sway the opinions of those who can afford either EV…

But before local tribalistic Tesla-stans start cheering about this potential victory for their team, it should be worth highlighting that this dominance is not all that good a phenomenon for the general consumer. Such is as this lack of stiff competition means that Malaysia will not witness the same brutal(ly lucrative for buyers) price war currently ongoing elsewhere, and this could hence see EV prices in Malaysia remain artificially high relative to the rest of the world, which is not good for anyone now isn’t it?

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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