BYD showed off its first two luxury car models under its new Yangwang brand on Thursday. The U8, an off-roader, and the U9, a sports car, will each be priced at more than RMB 1 million ($150,000) and equipped with four electric motors that boast top-of-the-range performance in extreme conditions.

Why it matters: In the company’s latest move to enhance its leadership position as China’s top-selling EV maker, BYD has become one of the few domestic automakers to enter the uncharted waters of the super-luxury car segment where German auto majors have traditionally had a strong grip.

Details: The full-size U8 off-roader and the high-performance U9 sports car will come with an innovative electric drive system using four separate motors, one controlling each wheel, that allows the vehicles to do a tank turn – a 360-degree spin on its own axis.

  • This technology could “totally outperform” the way internal combustion engines work in terms of vehicle control and provide “utmost safety” for passengers, BYD’s chairman Wang Chuanfu said on Thursday during a press conference in Shenzhen (our translation).
  • Vice president Yang Dongsheng added that the company’s quad-motor EV drivetrain, along with a new torque control system, could apply torque to wheels with millisecond precision and mean better control over the vehicles than slow-responding gas engines.
  • The U9 and U8 are built on an 800-volt integrated architecture, with four electric motors offering a combined output of more than 1,100 horsepower and a rotation speed of 20,500 revolutions per minute. The two models can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) within two and three seconds, respectively.
  • BYD has not revealed the pricing details or launch dates for the two vehicles but will open showrooms in top-tier Chinese cities Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou from the first quarter of this year. Yangwang will be operated with retail locations independent of BYD’s existing sales networks.

Context: BYD revealed the name of its new luxury EV brand, Yangwang in Chinese pinyin, in November, saying the marque would feature the company’s most advanced technology and come with a target price range of between RMB 800,000 and RMB 1.5 million ($116,707 to $218,825).

  • Chairman Wang also confirmed the company’s plans to launch another new sub-brand that “specializes in professional and personalized identities” without giving further details.
  • BYD has previously faced setbacks in trying to expand its market reach into the high-end segment. It currently operates a premium sub-brand called Denza in partnership with Daimler. However, the brand, with a target price range of between RMB 300,000 and RMB 500,000, sold just 9,803 units last year.
  • Several carmakers have been working to build new high-end auto brands for China. In September, Toyota’s partner GAC showcased its first supercar under the Hyper marque with a starting price of RMB 1.29 million. The company debuted the second Hyper branded car on Dec. 30 during the 2022 Guangzhou Auto Show.
  • In November, BeyonCa, an EV startup launched by Soh Weiming, a former executive vice president of Volkswagen China, introduced its first production car. The new model is priced from RMB 898,000 and is set to hit the market by March, Bloomberg reported.
  • Human Horizon, another Chinese EV maker, is among the few automakers already active in the super-luxury car segment. It began delivering its first model, the Hiphi X, in May 2021 and reported sales of 2,584 units during the first half of 2022.
  • Mercedes, Porsche, and BMW are among the most prominent players in the Chinese high-end auto segment. Porsche sales increased 8% year-on-year to 95,671 vehicles in China in 2021, an all-time high for Volkswagen’s sports car manufacturer. That number dropped 16% in the first half of last year amid Covid-related restrictions.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen