If you’ve followed TTAC for the last several, you’ve been able to watch the meteoric rise of Build Your Dreams from humble upstart to Buffett-backed behemoth. Two years ago, BYD seemed poised to launch an unstoppable onslaught of cheap Chinese electric cars that seemed like an attractive proposition at a time when gas price angst was everywhere. Today, however, things have changed considerably. Bloomberg reports that BYD has opened its US headquarters in Los Angeles, a year behind schedule, and with fewer jobs than initially promised. And no wonder: for all intents and purposes, BYD has practically abandoned its charge to leverage its cell phone battery know-how into electric car dominance. According to Bloomberg, BYD
“has delayed plans to sell electric cars to retail buyers, citing limited availability of public chargers. Instead, it’s focusing on solar panels, batteries, LED lighting and rechargeable buses.”
But ask an old China car industry hand (say, I don’t know, TTAC Managing Editor Bertel Schmitt) about BYD’s automotive ambitions, and he’ll likely roll his eyes. “BYD was like a dirty word” says Bertel, when asked about the Shenzhen-based firm’s presence at the recent Chengdu Chinese Auto Industry Confab. And even within BYD, all you hear are the sounds of silence: MarketWatch reports the firm is in the grips of a “White Terror.” Through the first half of 2011, BYD’s sales were down 23 percent (in a growing market), net profit is reported to be down 88 percent.
So, what’s next?
“BYD will announce its first two California dealerships soon. They will offer the full range of BYD products, including electric vehicles, solar panels, LED-lighting systems, vehicle-charging equipment and energy-storage systems — large-scale batteries powered by solar panels.“