HONG KONG/BEIJING — Challenged by the arrival of Tesla Inc. in China last year, domestic electric vehicle start-ups were struggling even before the economic shock wrought by the coronavirus, but now for some it has become a battle for survival.
New energy vehicle sales fell for a tenth straight month in April, plummeting 43 percent from a year earlier in a market that has now got 50-or-so established start-ups competing with domestic giants like Geely, state-owned FAW Group , and foreign brands such as Tesla and Volkswagen Group.
“The difficulties that EV start-ups have encountered, such as the auto sales decline, harsh fundraising environment and subsidies reduction, all started last year,” said Brian Gu, president of Alibaba-backed Xpeng Motors.
“The outbreak will aggravate these issues that already had existed,” said Gu, whose firm delivered 16,000 vehicles in 2019.
Despite subsidies to EV makers and tax breaks for buyers, industry watchers fear electric vehicles could become…