The first fruits of Daimler and BYD’s Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology Co. joint venture is on display at the Beijing auto show this week. The partnership intends to blend BYD’s latest battery technology with more than a century of manufacturing experience at the maker of Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Schedule to launch on the Chinese market in September of this year, the Denza is a five passenger car with a 115 hp (86 kW) electric motor that has a top speed of 93 mph and a range of up to 186 miles (300 km). Produced at a factory in Shenzhen, the Denza was jointly designed in China, reflecting the Chinese government’s policy requiring foreign automakers to establish joint technical centers in China and to share technology with their Chinese partners.
The Denza shows its stripes
So Denza, the odd couple joint venture between Daimler and BYD, lifted the veil of its upcoming all-electric SUV. A car in heavy camouflage rolled on stage here at the Shanghai Motor Show. The car looked, well, like the old B-Class from which it is derived.
At the Shanghai Auto Show, which opens to the public on April 21, and to tens of thousands of alleged members of the media the day before, the child of one of the auto industry’s oddest couples will be shown – at least in prototype form. It is the Denza EV, the product of a mésalliance between the world’s oldest and proudest automaker, Daimler, and a company that entered the annals of contemporary automotive history as the most brazen rip-off artist.
Of course we are talking of BYD, the Shenzhen, China, based maker of half the world’s cellphone batteries and a dwindling number of cars. A while ago, I visited an intrepid team of German engineers, shacked up at BYD, to jointly develop an electric car. They were friendly, hospitable, and as forthcoming as possible under the strange circumstances. For months, I could not bring it over me to put my fellow countrymen and expats in the dim light this story would project. Their job is tough enough. But in the interest of timeliness and journalistic duty, here it goes.
Daimler’s R&D chief Thomas Weber told Germany’s Wirtschaftswoche a big secret: Daimler will show an electric car at the Beijing auto show that opens in the last week of April. Of course, TTAC readers already knew the secret. But it is always nice to have independent verification.
Real Chinese brands are losing market share to joint ventures. The Chinese government wants to keep up appearances, and strongly suggests to joint ventures with foreigners that they should start a separate “Chinese” brand. Latest to say “hao” (yes, ok, jawohl) is Daimler. Its joint venture with BYD to make electric cars in China will dispense with making electric Mercedes first and will instead immediately head to second base and launch a Chinese brand.
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