China's BYD Co. Ltd. has big plans for the North American market which includes launching sales of its all-electric E6 sedan in the U.S. by the end of 2010, and building a U.S. research and development and production facility soon after that.
During the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Jan. 12, the Shenzhen-based company also repeated its goal to be the biggest automaker in China by 2015, and the biggest global automaker by 2025.
We do have a plan, said Fred Ni, general manager for the U.S. unit, BYD Motors Inc.
BYD already has been talking to several states about potential locations for BYD production in the U.S., and it will judge timing for its long-term plans once it begins to get feedback from customers in North America. Future plans include construction of both electric and gasoline-powered vehicles in North America, he said.
The possibilities are wide open, Ni said. We want production in the U.S. so we can respond quickly to demand as it changes.
BYD is not just a carmaker. The company's holdings take in plastics within its own lithium-ion batteries made for a variety of consumer electronics, and the pack and battery system within the five-seat E6.
BYD is not the first Chinese automaker to announce plans for the North American market, and skeptics point to other announcements from its competitors when they shake their heads in disbelief.
But Chinese companies have slowly been building their presence during that same time, even as deadlines passed without those cars appearing in the U.S., and other industry watchers are not so quick to dismiss the firm.
BYD would have problems launching a full vehicle in the U.S. this year, because it still must set up a dealer network, pass safety requirements, establish its brand and convince Americans to buy a Chinese-made car, said Jeff Schuster, executive director for J.D. Powers & Associates' automotive forecasting. But to their credit, if you have followed the progress of the industry, it has been substantial, he said. They will be a global player.
BYD boosted its total sales by 160 percent in 2009, Ni said. It began exporting to the Ukraine in 2006 to get its first toe hold in Europe.
Even financier Wilbur Ross, whose W.L. Ross & Co. includes interiors supplier International Automotive Components, is convinced Chinese cars will be made in the U.S. within the next few years.
I know people are skeptical and they laugh, but remember the first year when Toyota came over here, Ross said during the Automotive News World Congress, held Jan. 13 in Detroit. You know how many cars they sold that year: 288. Remember how many smirks there were that year? A lot, probably 288 smirks. Look where it is now.
China will achieve major penetration over here and everywhere else once it gets going, and anybody who feels otherwise is going to be out of business in the future.
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