Chinese battery and electric vehicle maker BYD shows off a model of its Han EV series at the 2020 Beijing auto show.
Evelyn Cheng | CNBC
BYD, which is backed by U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett, disclosed Tuesday that sales of its battery-powered passenger cars totaled 16,301 units last month.
That's more than double Nio's deliveries in March of 7,257 cars. Rival start-up Xpeng delivered even fewer vehicles, at 5,102 units last month. Both companies still beat analysts' expectations with those figures.
In the new energy vehicle category, which includes hybrid as well as pure-electric cars, BYD sold more than 23,000 units in March — that brings the total in the first quarter to 53,380 cars.
BYD also sold nearly as many oil-fueled vehicles in the first quarter, at 49,394 units.
The sales of electric cars come as China's auto market recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, which hit the country the hardest in the first quarter of 2020.
New motor vehicle registrations in the first quarter of this year climbed to a record high of 9.66 million, China's Ministry of Public Security said Tuesday. New energy vehicles accounted for 466,000, or just over 6% of newly registered cars, the data showed.
The percentage of new energy cars nationwide that are pure electric was 81.5% in the first quarter, about the same as the ratio in 2020, according to public security data.
When it comes to the global market, China's electric automakers still have a large gap to close.
Electric car market leader Tesla said last week it delivered 184,800 cars worldwide in the first quarter. While the U.S. electric car maker did not break out figures for China, the company noted in a release: "We are encouraged by the strong reception of the Model Y in China and are quickly progressing to full production capacity."
Elon Musk's car company began deliveries of a China-made Model Y in January. The car was the third best-selling new energy vehicle in China in February, according to the China Passenger Car Association.
Tesla has installed annual production capacity for 200,000 Model Y units at its factory in Shanghai, according to an investor presentation in late January.