Chinese battery electric vehicle (BEV) startup XPeng plans to increase its workforce by 4,000 in 2023, as it looks to expand aggressively in an increasingly competitive domestic market. This would be a 25% increase in headcount compared with the end of 2022, when it had just under 16,000 employees.

Xpeng struggled to keep up with many of its Chinese peers last year, with its global BEV sales rising by just 17% to 141,600 units taking cumulative sales since it began operations to 400,300 units.

Global sales of Chinese made BEVs rose 25% to 6,685,000 units last year, according to data collected by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).

BYD reported a 73% rise to 1.575m units while shipments from Tesla’s Shanghai plant rose 33% to 748,000.

Li Auto was the best performer among the startups with sales surging 182% to 376,000 units last year.

Xpeng CEO He Xiaopeng said the company planned to invest CNY3.5bn (US$486m) in AI research and to develop intelligent driving systems. The company aimed to launch 30 new or revised models in the next three years to navigate what it described as a “bloody sea” of competition in the world’s largest auto market.

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Xiaopeng said in a statement: “As we face a weakening macroeconomic situation, many businesses are drawing back and afraid to invest. I think this is an opportunity for our company to step up its development.”

Another BEV startup, Nio, which reported a 31% increase in sales to 160,000 units last year, recently announced plans to cut its workforce by 10% to improve efficiency amid growing competition.

Most manufacturers have announced further price cuts to help drive up sales.