American car buyers have heard the hue and cry, “the Chinese are coming” for so long, they mostly turn a deaf ear. But we ignore these auto makers at our own risk, because sooner than later they will be here.
Many have trumpeted their intentions to enter the U.S. market, such as, Geely, Great Wall and more recently . But, so far, all appear to lack the necessary business plan, products or distribution network.
However, one auto maker is making strides, not because its cars are in contention today but because of what it can bring tomorrow. That promise was enough to lure super-investor Warren Buffet to BYD, and the privately owned car company continues to carefully line its duck in a row.
This includes expertise in battery making; an e6 electric vehicle and F3DM plug-in hybrid shown last week at Geneva; and the recent announcement of a technical tie-up with Germany’s Mercedes maker, expected to result in a new EV in the next several years with a new brand name.
A partnership with one of the world’s premium auto makers certainly strengthens BYD’s credibility.
Although a relatively new company, BYD sold 450,000 gas-powered cars last year and 100 hybrids. And management says it already has distributors in 10 European countries for EVs and hybrids.
The partnership provides economies of scale for both auto makers, asseeks to be a bigger player both in electrified vehicles and the booming Chinese market, as well as the thriving Asian region.
“We will have a common technical center in China to develop, design and test the car,” says Henry Li, BYD manager-international operations. “It’s a cooperation between the most senior automobile company and the youngest – the most luxurious and the fastest-growing.”
In the interim, Li says the current e6 will be sold in China this year and the U.S. and Europe next year, with the U.S. getting the car first.
It will be interesting to see if American car buyers are ready to commit to a Chinese car, and whether the first of many Chinese auto makers is ready for America.