23 April 2019

Will BYD make a triumphant backdoor ride to China?

BYD (01211.HK) is not having much success convincing Chinese motorists to buy its electric sedans. Price is a big part of the reason and lack of charging stations makes the vehicles practically a non-starter.

Overseas, however, BYD is catching on.

At the rate its electric vehicles are being embraced abroad, domestic buyers could start giving them a second look anytime soon.

That’s the power of global brand recognition. It can turn a product into a world icon despite being spurned at home. 

BYD is making a name for itself in Hong Kong, Los Angeles and the Dutch port city of Rotterdam.

In September, Kowloon Motor Bus Co., Hong Kong’s largest franchised bus operator, launched trials of the city’s first battery-powered bus made by BYD.

Five months earlier, BYD had shipped the first consignment of electric taxis to Hong Kong. A senior company executive estimates that no less than 3,000 BYD e-vehicles will be running in Hong Kong by 2015.

In July, Los Angeles bus operator Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced the purchase of 25 BYD e-buses. Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ second biggest city, has begun tests on its own fleet of BYD e-vehicles.

With a new strategy on the domestic front, BYD is teaming up with other carmakers to penetrate regional markets.

The company has a 51 percent stake in an e-bus joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. Ltd. (02238.HK). It already operates a fleet of e-buses and e-taxis in Shenzhen.

By forming joint ventures, BYD has largely overcome barriers put up by local governments to protect their own car manufacturing industries. Analysts expect the company to replicate the strategy in Beijing and Shanghai. 

BYD chief Wang Chuanfu {王傳福} is putting his faith in word of mouth, hoping that positive passenger experience overseas will filter back into China and help rekindle his electric dream.

But he is not sitting idly by. He has moved to address the three greatest issues — price, battery technology and charging infrastructure — with a working model to show for his efforts.

It’s called Qin {秦}, a hybrid mid-sized sedan priced at less than 180,000 yuan (US$29,639). It goes 70 kilometers on a single charge at up to 70 kilometers per hour and switches to gasoline for speeds up to 185 kph. Fuel consumption is 1.6 liters per 100 kilometers.

Some test drivers have put Qin’s performance at a notch above that of Prius, Toyota’s popular hybrid model.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]




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