By on January 12, 2010


Buffett-backed Chinese EV firm BYD is back at the Detroit Auto Show after making its main-floor debut last year. Like most automakers, BYD has toned things down a bit this year, featuring the same vehicle it brought last year, the all-electric e6 crossover. Last year, BYD said the 250-mile, 14-sec 0-60 e6 would be coming to the US at an estimated $40k pricetag.  This year, BYD’s Fred Ni is telling ABC that the e6 could be more reasonably priced, implying that it would be sold at a price point comparable to similar gas-powered vehicles.

Because BYD has had so much success in China with its gas-powered cars (its F3 is China’s top-seller), it’s focusing on establishing an EV beachhead in mature markets like the US. That means low volumes at first and a California-only rollout, as the company seeks to build brand awareness. Once the firm gets a toehold though, watch out. “There might not be a profit initially, but we’ll have to sell it [the e6] at a reasonable price,” Li explains to Kicking Tires. “Once we see reasonable demand we want to move major production facilities to the U.S.”

BYD’s big news in Detroit appears to center around their claim that the e6 will roll out in California this year. “The U.S. is a very important market for BYD in the future, and the electric vehicle is our future,” Chairman Wang Chuanfu tells BusinessWeek. “We will start toward the market in the second half.” Of course, last year BYD said they would have the e6 on sale in China by the end of 2009, and apparently that has yet to happen. Meanwhile, BYD’s Dual Mode hybrids aren’t exactly selling like hot cakes either (likely to their high cost relative to the rest of the Chinese market).

Nothing about the EV market is certain right now, but BYD is clearly playing the game with considerable patience. Of course the e6 still has to pass US certification, crash testing, and the gauntlet of journalists waiting to shoot down a $40k Chinese EV. On the other hand, if it does pass these hurdles, it could keep the Volt from looking cutting edge and break down some of the fear factor surrounding Chinese cars. BYD is in for an interesting 12 months or so.

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8 Comments on “BYD Dreams Up 2010 EV Sales, US Production...”

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    China Inc has only sold a few thousand conventional cars in Western Europe this last year, a miserable showing worse than what the Russians used to do in Soviet times. 

    Taking a chapter from AMC’s book, however, and selling vehicles unlike what is already on the market is probably a receipe for success in Western Europe or North American “saturated” marketplaces. 

    The statement about “building in the US” before they’ve even sold one car (speaking about “eventualities” not immediate plans, of course) also gives one pause to realize these folks are mindful of local sensibilities and are acting rationally as well as in step with what major players have done. 

    Build ’em where you sell ’em.  Export the technology and know-how. 

    Also I’m mindful that Warren Buffett is nobody’s fool.  Didn’t he just buy up a major railway company?  Eventually, they’ll need to ship car parts (for manufacture in US plants) and whole cars across country to dealers.  Trains are a low-cost means of doing this.  But I suspect Buffett is realizing this is only a tiny piece of the puzzle (and overall reasoning behind the -I think- extremely smart moves he’s making). 

  • avatar

    Ignoring the Chinese threat, because of their dismal current quality will be a huge mistake.  I suspect the Chinese will follow the Koreans and the Japanese before them and become a dominant player in the world auto market in a few years. Let not forget the Indians as well. Tata is looking to enter the U.S. market (on top of their Jaguar and Land Rover brands.)

  • avatar

    At least that’s a realistic looking girl, not an emaciated stick figure.
    The Chinese are already here with the Chinese engines in thousands of GM products, and whole cars will be here soon, 2010?  I don’t know if it will be that soon but don’t count on them still not being here at the end of the newly dawning decade.

  • avatar

    The Chinese are already here in the low-end scooter and under 250cc motorcycle market.  Pick your brand carefully, and the quality is quite good.  (Yeah, there’s a few brands that are lousy – can you say Lifan?)  They’ve already made their mistakes in Europe, and seen how dirty the local agencies can be.  They’re certainly going to learn.
    Coming in with a quality EV, on a limited scale, is certainly the smart way to get a toehold.  Now, if they can get the dealer support idea together . . . . . . . . . .

  • avatar

    The build quality is going to have to be better on their $40,000 hybrids than it was on the cars they displayed last year in Detroit.  The cars had numerous paint flaws, jagged metal edges and one of them looked like it had been a total wreck at one point and been rebuilt.  You’d think that the cars they’d bring to a major international auto show would have represented the company better. 

    There are plentyof former GM & Chrysler dealers with empty showrooms who would love to get back in the new car game so this should be interesting whatever happens. 

  • avatar

    Making a reliable electric car is much easier than an reliable ICE.*
    * except the battery, but that is bought from a supplier, in this case BYD

  • avatar

    I think I’d rather own a Cobalt than a Chinese-made car…and I’d suspect that I’m not alone in that thinking…

  • avatar

    “Last year, BYD said the 250-mile, 14-sec 0-60 e6 would be coming to the US at an estimated $40k pricetag.”

    Oh yeah, sounds like vapourware ?

    Perhaps BYD is has some people who used to work for Commodore electronics ?

    Since BYD has yet to make a car that even complies with US homologation standards….

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