The latest member of BYD’s Ocean family of EVs has been inadvertently revealed in China by the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), as the electric vehicle maker looks to extend its leadership in a competitive entry-level market segment.

Why it matters: The compact EV, called Seagull, will likely be the cheapest model in BYD’s lineup, and the Warren Buffett-backed automaker will face stiff competition in a segment dominated by standouts such as Wuling’s popular and inexpensive Hongguang Mini EV.

Details: The Seagull compact SUV will measure around 3.8 meters in length with a wheelbase of 2.5 meters, according to information released by MIIT on Jan. 11. This is shorter than the length of 4.1 meters and the wheelbase of 2.7 meters of BYD’s Dolphin hatchback, both under the company’s ocean-themed EV family.

  • Outed in several images from MIIT, the Seagull’s rounded silhouette and sharp shoulder line follow the same sporty design language as the rest of the automaker’s Ocean models, which cater to a younger consumer segment compared with its Dynasty Series.
  • Industry observers estimated the Seagull would be priced below RMB 100,000 ($14,916), compared with the Dolphin, which is priced between RMB 116,800 and RMB 136,800. The Seagull will be powered by an electric motor with an output of 55 kW, also lower than the 70 kW delivered to the Dolphin.
  • The Chinese government requires automakers to submit documents regarding new product information before launch to gain approval for models sold in the country. A BYD spokesperson declined to comment on launch details when contacted by TechNode on Monday.

Context: Budget-friendly, entry-level micro-EVs accounted for around one-third of passenger electric vehicle sales in China last year, according to figures from the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA). Competition in the sector has been heating up in recent years, and buyers are more price-conscious than those of luxury cars.

  • Wuling’s Mini EV maintained its title as China’s best-selling EV model in 2022 with sales of 404,823 units, representing a slight 2.4% increase from a year earlier. Other popular micro-EVs include Chery’s QQ Ice Cream and Changan’s Benben, with deliveries of each exceeding 90,000 units last year. Meanwhile, Hong Kong-listed Leapmotor also sold 61,919 T03 compact hatchbacks, CPCA figures showed.
  • Earlier this month, BYD said it had delivered more than 230,000 Dolphin vehicles since the launch of the first model under the Ocean Series in August 2021. The company also sold more than 50,000 Seal crossovers last year after delivery began in August. The Seal, the second member of the Ocean marque, is a direct rival to Tesla’s Model 3 with a starting price of RMB 212,800.

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