BYD, China’s biggest producer of electric vehicles and the world’s third biggest batteries supplier, is making a series of aggressive moves to carve out a slice of the global auto market led by European and American giants.
BYD is systematically entering the passenger EV markets of Southeast Asia and Western Europe, facing stiff competition from well-established local majors as well as younger rivals such as Tesla and Nio.
Experts say that Chinese carmakers have an edge due to their head start in EV technology and have enjoyed the advantage of a fully developed EV supply chain from battery cells to control units. Thus, the ongoing global shortage of critical components allows them to ensure relatively stable production and hand over vehicles to customers more quickly than many of their global competitors.
The Shenzhen-based firm is undoubtedly the poster child for China’s shift towards EVs. In April, it became the world’s first automaker to end the production of gasoline-powered cars. The Warren Buffett-backed company sold nearly 201,300 EVs in September, of which 7,736 passenger cars were exported. Consultant LMC Automotive estimates BYD’s annual sales could reach 1.9 million units in 2022, including 18,000 units from overseas operations. McKinsey & Co expects at least one Chinese carmaker to reach annual sales of up to 5 million vehicles by 2030, with more than a third of that figure coming from overseas markets.
Here are some notable moves made by the automaker as it expands overseas.
BYD announced big plans for the European region in September, with an initial goal of cracking the passenger EV market of nine European countries by the end of the year. Besides forging alliances with established car retailers, the automaker will supply an additional group of 100,000 EVs to German-based car rental giant SIXT over the next six years as it expands its presence into all major markets on the continent.
BYD made its first major attempt as a passenger carmaker in Europe back in July 2020 by showcasing several of its Tang electric sports utility vehicles with dealership partner RSA at an event in Oslo.
However, it was not until last August that the Chinese automaker officially started its expansion into the region by delivering the first batch to Norwegian customers, quickly followed by the celebration of handing over its 1,000th vehicle in December.
With a starting price of 599,900 Norwegian kroner ($56,670) and a maximum driving range of 528 kilometers (328 miles), the seven-seater luxury SUV is by far the top-selling vehicle model by Chinese carmakers in Norway. A total of 2,526 Tang SUVs have been registered in the country as of Oct. 19, compared with 1,251 SAIC MG Marvel Rs, 980 Nio ES8s, and 812 Xpeng Motor G3s, according to data provider Elbilstatistikk.no.
Rest of Western Europe
BYD began its push into the European passenger car market in September, announcing plans that its three popular EV models – Tang, Han, and the Atto 3 – will be available in eight other European countries in addition to Norway, by year-end. Those countries are Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France, and the UK. The introduction of its Seal sedan and Dolphin hatchback is also reportedly in the pipeline.
BYD’s Tang crossover and its premium Han sedan will cost 72,000 euros ($69,740), while the Atto 3, a compact five-seater SUV, will target a more mainstream segment with a pre-sale price of 38,000 euros. Delivery of the first batch was celebrated during this year’s Paris Motor Show, and the company has partnered with three European car retailers to expand in the region, the Automotive News reported on Oct.17.
BYD’s EV strategy for Asia is very different from its strategy for Europe. In the latter, it tried to pursue luxury status among relatively affluent buyers by launching top-end models. However, in the Asia region, the Chinese EV maker is offering more affordable options in a crowded market dominated by Japanese and Korean rivals. As a result, competition could get even more intense as BYD pursues this market.
Australia and New Zealand
Despite having sold its E6 electric taxis for at least two years in Australia, BYD made a big step into the country’s market with the launch of its Atto 3 in February and quickly expanded its reach to New Zealand five months later. The car has been selling in 12 showrooms across seven states in Australia in a partnership with EVDirect, a regional distributor for BYD.
Aware that Japan is moving slowly amid the global transition towards EVs, BYD is forging into the prominent market with a group of hit products, including its sports sedan Seal, hatchback Dolphin, and the Atto 3.
BYD Japan executive officer Atsuki Tofukuji said that all three models are priced between 3 million yen and 6 million yen ($20,028 – $40,058). The first deliveries of the Atto 3 are scheduled for early next year, and the company is targeting no earlier than the middle of 2023 for the other two models.
The Chinese carmaker has no near-term plan to start a manufacturing plant in the country but aims to set up 100 showrooms with partners in the next three years. Its electric buses have entered into service in several Japanese cities including Tokyo and Kyoto over the past few years and the company hopes its accumulative sales will surpass 4,000 units around 2028.
Thailand is a strategically important market for BYD, where the Chinese automaker will establish its first fully-owned factory for passenger cars outside of China, hoping to not only meet local demand but also satisfy the needs of Southeast Asia in general.
The $491 million facility is scheduled to become operational in Rayong, Thailand, in 2024, with a production capacity of 150,000 vehicles annually. The automaker announced earlier this month that it would bring its Atto 3 to Thailand with local retailer RÊVER, which will build more than 30 dealership stores by year-end for its Chinese partner and more than triple that number next year. Vehicle launch happened on Oct. 10, and the company has not revealed expected time of delivery.
Positioned to surpass Japan as the world’s third-biggest economy in 2025, India holds great potential for BYD’s cars. Earlier this month, the company announced a goal of selling at least 15,000 Atto 3 SUVs in the country next year and taking around a 40% market share by 2030.
Since it started making buses with a local partner in 2013, the Chinese automaker has invested over $200 million in the world’s fourth-biggest car market, running a manufacturing plant with a partner with an annual production capacity of 15,000 vehicles. However, no investment plan has been set in the near term amid increased scrutiny by Indian regulators toward Chinese investments.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly cited BYD’s dealership numbers in Australia and Thailand. The story was updated on Oct. 21 to include BYD’s comments on the launch of its Atto 3 in Thailand.