Tesla and General Motors Wuling are the two undisputed leaders of the pack in China’s $49 billion electric vehicle (EV) market, together holding nearly a 20% share this year. But more than a dozen legacy and infant automakers are in hot pursuit. All emerging from rough patches, three US-listed domestic makers—Nio, Xpeng, and Li Auto—now comprise the second tier of contenders. Riding on high-growth trajectories, the trio are tipped to be Tesla’s most formidable domestic challengers.

Yet with a flood of new money supercharging the industry, third-tier EV makers are coming on as powerful forces as well. Reporting deliveries in significant numbers and backed by a growing list of reputable investors, several pose a real-time threat to the US-listed trio, and speculation is building that some are preparing for listings in Hong Kong.

The third-tier upstarts have been buoyed by strong growth in domestic electric passenger car sales this year. Sales of 321,000 EV units in the first ten months of 2021 represented a 141% year-on-year increase from the same period in 2020, when the overall auto sales slumped 14% from the year before, data from the China Passenger Car Association shows.

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Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen