By on January 13, 2010

The master of the universe. Picture courtesy

So they say, if you want to be a successful car manufacturer, you must have steel in your DNA, gasoline in your blood, a history reaching back generations, and an annual output of at least 5m to stay profitable. And even then it’s not a slam dunk, as we are painfully aware.

Wang Chuanfu proves them all wrong.

In 1995, he left his job as a researcher and started making rechargeable batteries. He landed Nokia as his biggest customer and was off to the races. His company BYD is now the world’s largest mobile phone battery producer, taking up about a 30 percent share of the market.

In 2003 Wang surprised everybody by entering the car industry in China. There is no shortage of auto makers in the Middle Kingdom, the official count is over 100. Wang thought his battery know-how would give him an edge in building electric cars, which surely would be the future. So he started building cars for his batteries.

And his cars took off. Last year, BYD sold 400,000 cars, this year, the plan is to double output to 800,000 cars. Ironically, it’s a conventionally powered car that drives BYD’s sales. The ICE-propelled BYD F3 has topped the sedan charts for many months. It’s a roomy B-class, Corolla-sized model that sells for around $9500 US, “about the price of an early 1990s-era Toyota Corolla,” as Popular Mechanics can’t help to remark. Some can’t help to remark that the F3 looks like a mirror image of the Corolla. Some Chinese customers are said to replace the BYD badge with one by Toyota, and nobody can tell the difference.

And what about the electrics? Only a few hundred electric dreams were sold in 2009.

ICE propelled, BYD’s stock went into the stratosphere, and Wang Chuanfu became the richest person in China, if the Forbes China list 2009 has it right. Warren Buffet, who plunked down $232m for a 10 percent stake in BYD, also didn’t to too bad. In one year, Buffet was looking at a 500 percent return. On paper.

Wang Chuanfu wants more. He wants to be China’s biggest auto producer by 2015 – and no less than the world’s biggest car maker no later than 2025, writes China Daily. If his dreams become reality, then Volkswagen and Toyota can play tag team for a few years, only to be toppled by a Chinese upstart who eats in the company canteen, lives in a BYD-owned apartment complex with other engineers. The only luxuries of the austere billionaire are a Mercedes and a Lexus. Which he owns strictly for research purposes: He likes taking their engines apart to see how they work.

At NAIAS, BYD announced it wants to bring its electric E6 crossover vehicle to the U.S. by the end of the year. BYD says the E6 can go from zero to 60 mph in less than 14 seconds, achieve a top speed of 140 miles per hour and will have a range of 205 miles. Supposedly, the E6 carries the coveted title of “the world’s first production plug-in hybrid crossover.”

BYD also has its sights on Europe. An announcement will be made at the Geneva motor show in March, reports Autocar. BYD already has production facilities in Romania and Hungary supplying cars to countries outside the European Union. Support sites exist in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Holland and Russia.

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19 Comments on “BYD Wants To Be World’s Biggest Car Maker...”

  • avatar

    didn’t this same guy say in a fit of pique that “why would he want to be toyota? they are the goliath of the industry scaling back, firing people, getting out of F1, developing moribund cars and making no money?”
    i can only say look at the current BYD lineup and tell me what is wrong (or right)
    doesn’t he also know that Americans are loathe to pay $40k for a Chevy Volt let alone an E6 PHEV with a silly BMW knockoff nameplate?

  • avatar

    Alas, they all look alike.
    The cars, I mean.

  • avatar

    Make no mistake.  The Chinese are coming.  So are the Indians (Tata.)  However, they have a long way to go before they unseat Toyota.  For one thing, their current quality is horrendous.  But, history shows, they will learn.

  • avatar

    Before BYD becomes the world’s largest automaker, I wonder it they will figure out that the company name closely resembles that of a well-known brand of cheap men’s underwear?

  • avatar

    The BYD logo makes me embarrassed to be a human being.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    A coupla points here. 1. I’m not really sure why anyone cares if Wang Chuanfu says he wants to be the biggest car maker in the world. How many car manufacturers are there in China? How many of them want to be the biggest? Probably all of them. I seriously doubt any of them aspire to be the fifth largest.
    2. I’m not really sure why anyone thinks this company is a leader in battery technology. If what I read about the BYD e6 ev is correct, the vehicle seats five, weighs a ton and a half, and the battery alone weighs 1600 pounds. I’m not so sure that qualifies as “progress.”

  • avatar

    I would think that the world’s largest supplier of laptop batteries knows something about battery technology.
    They are the only people who are using iron phosphate. Since they are the only people whatever they say the E6 can do is without contradication until it’s independently tested.
    So far the figures to me don’t make sense but no-one knows how iron phosphate behaves so they may be correct.
    btw, the figures are the car is about 4,200lb and has a 250 mile range and has acceptable performance. Charging time to full is as little as 1.5 hrs…
    very fanciful figures

  • avatar

    It’s easy to be a profitable car company (or any kind of company, for that matter) when you have an army of slave labor at your disposal.

  • avatar

    How are Chinese engineers, managers, and laborers slaves any more than the wage slaves here or Europe?  Stop being so 30 years ago.

  • avatar

    Boombox1: Forget the “slave labor” part. Workers in Chinese car companies get paid. Not as much as a UAW worker, but they get paid. Enough that they line up in front of the factories to get a job. Slaves wouldn’t line up. They would run away. I’ve had businesses in China for 5 years now, and if you could kindly tell me where I could find myself some slaves, I’d put them to work.

    • 0 avatar

      I work for a corporation that manufactures waste water treatment equipment.  We have been doing business in China for roughly 10 years.  I can say that the working conditions over there are nothing like stateside operations.  That being said, what’s made in China stays in China.  We do a good business but have to play by their rules, which are stacked big-time against us… doors are shut in our faces regularly and the business only exists because of the kindness of government hosts.

  • avatar

    Boombox1: Since you obviously speak from experience, I take it then that your company in China employs slaves?

  • avatar

    “if you could kindly tell me where I could find myself some slaves, I’d put them to work”
    Really?  Not a very high standard.

  • avatar

    Is the E6 a hybrid or straight electric vehicle?

  • avatar

    boombox, why are you exploiting slave laborers for your company?  If you are so concerned, you can either make a stand or quit.  Or you know, you can at least do the minimally decent thing and buy them helmets and gloves, there are no laws against that.

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