Electric Car from China Could be Available This Year

This past week at the Detroit auto show, Chinese carmaker BYD Auto announced its plans to make an electric car available in California by the end of 2010. BYD would be the first company to sell Chinese made cars in the United States.

In order for this to happen, BYD must comply with crash and emissions standards, which requires testing that can take years. They also must line up a network of dealers to distribute their cars.

BYD is a young company that was founded only seven years ago, and it has no qualms with setting high goals for itself. The introductory video that played for show goers announced that the company intends to be the largest automaker in the world by 2025.

Chief executive of Edmunds.com, Jeremy Anwyl, said, “We’ve been talking for years about the imminent arrival of the Chinese, and it still seems to be imminent. It always seems to be ‘later this year.’” He did say, though, that BYD and the other Chinese companies are making a great deal of progress.

Anwyl says, “They’ve got a long-term view, and they’ve certainly got the will. When they do come, it’s going to almost be as disruptive as when the Japanese came.”

Companies worldwide have been watching China gain ground in the market. GM and Ford, along with others, know that China will soon be competing with them in the United States. Later this year Geely, which is China’s largest automaker, will buy Volvo from Ford. GM may also close a deal to sell the Hummer brand to an industrial equipment manufacturer in China.

Alan Mulaly, chief executive of Ford, attended the Automotive News World Congress on Tuesday. He said he believes “China’s going to be a force going forward.”

BYD has a five passenger crossover vehicle called the e6 that is battery powered with a 205-mile range. The e6 is the vehicle they’d like to market in the United States first.

The e6 can be charged at an outlet at home or at fast-charging stations, which do not exist yet. The current cost to produce an e6 is $40,000. BYD’s general manager of the auto export trade division, Henry Li, says that government incentives are the key to making it affordable in the beginning.

The plan is to have stand-alone dealerships distribute the vehicle. Li was questioned heavily regarding BYD’s plans, but he held fast to the notion that the company can overcome any obstacle.

Li said, “I think the market now is looking for electric cars. We don’t expect high volumes.” He also stated that BYD meets Chinese vehicle standards and would no doubt be able to meet U.S. requirements.

Unlike previous contenders, this Chinese company does not believe in the notion that they can gain market share by simply undercutting the competitors on price, regardless of quality and design. BYD, which already makes mobile phone batteries and batteries for other electronic devices, believes that high quality will lead to success..

“The product,” says Li, “has to be good.”

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