Tesla bucked a downward turn in China’s new-energy vehicle market last month with a threefold sales increase in its Shanghai-made Model Y sport-utility vehicle (SUV). The American electric carmaker delivered 4,630 Model Ys in February, compared to 1,641 in January, according to data compiled by the China Passenger Car Association. It had slashed the original price of a pre-ordered Model Y by 30 per cent at the start of the year. Sales of Model 3 cars built in Tesla’s Shanghai’s Gigafactory 3 stayed roughly flat, at 13,688 units. “February sales figures proved that Tesla’s Model Y has become a threat to the Chinese rivals , particularly after a heavy price reduction,” said Gao Shen, an independent analyst in Shanghai. “Tesla looks set to continue its dominance in the premium electric vehicle (EV) segment this year despite high expectations that some of its Chinese rivals will report a sales jump.” Deliveries of new-energy vehicles (NEVs) in mainland China reached 97,000 units in February, down 38 per cent from the previous month after a weeklong Lunar New Year holiday between February 11 and 17 disrupted sales. The three main Chinese Tesla challengers – NIO, Xpeng and Li Auto – posted sharp month-on-month declines in sales as the cut-price Model Y, launched on January 1, lured thousands of motorists and dented demand for its rivals’ cars. Shanghai-based NIO delivered 5,578 units last month, 22.8 per cent down from sales of 7,225 in January. Xpeng’s February sales slumped 63 per cent from a month earlier to 2,223 units. Li Auto delivered 2,300 units last month, 57 per cent less than January. Tesla, banking on the Model 3, its first production car in Shanghai, dominated the mainland’s premium EV market with sales of nearly 140,000 units last year. The Chinese EV start-ups recorded sizzling sales in the second half of 2020 as their cars, featuring longer driving ranges and sophisticated technologies in entertainment, navigation and driver-assistant systems, secured an increasing number of Chinese customers. Tesla sells its Model Y’s Long Range version from 339,000 yuan (US$51,935), 30 per cent cheaper than the price quoted in June when presale orders started. NEV sales in the world’s largest automotive market are expected to climb 40 per cent this year, spurred by Beijing’s supportive policies such as subsidies and free car licence plates, as well as an increasing awareness of environmental protection among motorists, and launches of new intelligent car models. Under the country’s “Made in China 2025” master industrial plan, 20 per cent of new cars clogging the streets by 2025 will be new-energy vehicles, a tag that covers pure electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell cars. China delivered 1.17 million NEVs in 2020, up 12 per cent on the year. Tesla was the second-bestselling EV company in China last month, trailing only General Motors’ SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile venture which delivered 20,819 units. Total sales of passenger vehicles, which include conventional cars, declined 45.5 per cent from a month earlier to 1.18 million units in February.