Tesla's Model 3 sedan was the world's best-selling electric car in 2020, but a smaller rival is gaining ground fast.
In fact, China's Wuling HongGuang Mini EV — a tiny, two-door hatchback that seats only four people — outsold Tesla's Model 3 in global sales for the month of January. Wuling sold more than 36,700 of the popular electric cars in January, compared to just over 21,500 Model 3 sales in the same month, according to electric vehicle sales tracker EV Volumes.
Liuzhao, China-based Wuling's car also continued to outpace Tesla's Model 3 in February sales in the Chinese market, according to EV Volumes (which has not yet released global sales estimates for February).
Wuling's HongGuang Mini EV is currently only sold in China, but the company reportedly hopes to expand sales overseas eventually. Wuling has not announced which countries could get the HongGuang Mini EV next, though some of China's electric automakers are looking to expand into the European market, specifically.
The car debuted in China in July 2020, and it is manufactured under a joint venture between Wuling, Chinese state-owned automaker SAIC Motor, and General Motors.
One reason for the HongGuang Mini EV's popularity among Chinese consumers is the car's extremely low price-tag. The car sells for less than $5,000, while the Model 3 has a starting price of around $36,000 in China.
For that lower price, drivers are definitely getting less car overall, as the very compact HongGuang Mini EV measures just under 115 inches in length and almost 59 inches in width (compared to 185 inches by 73 inches for the Model 3).
Wuling's electric hatchback seats just four passengers and offers no trunk space, though the rear seats do fold down to create storage space. The Model 3 seats five people and has 15 cubic feet of cargo space.
The car's manufacturers actually pitch its "compact dimensions" as a selling point, though, as a press release notes that the car is "ideal for urban commuting and parking in tight spaces."
The HongGuang Mini EV is certainly being pitched to city drivers, who might be less likely to need to drive long distances. The car's battery allows drivers to travel up to 105.6 miles on a single charge, while reaching a top speed of just over 62 MPH. By comparison, Tesla's Model 3 has a top speed of 162 MPH and a range of more than 350 miles per battery charge, while the upcoming Lucid Air sedan is expected to set records with a range of up to 517 miles.
Tesla doubled its sales in China in 2020, to nearly $6.7 billion, while ramping up production at the company's Shanghai factory (though, China's military recently banned Tesla cars from entering its complexes due to security concerns over the vehicles' cameras).
In the second half of 2020, Wuling sold more than 112,000 units of the car, which ranked second worldwide in the electric vehicle market, behind only Tesla (which delivered more than 285,000 Model 3 and Model Y cars combined in the second half).