Chinese battery-company-turned-automaker BYD said it had accepted Warren Buffett's invitation to display its electric cars at the general meeting of shareholders in the United States in May.
|BYD probing foreign markets [China Daily]|
It could be a prelude to efforts by the company to tap the North American market.
Buffett, the American billionaire investor, made his first investment in a Chinese company last September by buying a 10 percent share of the Hong Kong-listed BYD for HK$1.8 billion.
Xu An, BYD's public relations manager, told reporters BYD president Wang Chuanfu will attend the meeting, demonstrating the company's F3DM or E6 model to shareholders, though the company hasn't ironed out other details of the visit.
F3DM, the country's first mass-produced plug-in hybrid, went on sale last December, at least a year ahead of General Motors' anticipated release date for its hybrid Volt. GM and Toyota are the only companies besides BYD to have announced plans to launch plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2010.
Buffett has reportedly assigned an assistant to the BYD board to help the company break into overseas markets.
BYD is planning a domestic tour through 13 major Chinese cities for the F3DM in June but is also actively working on strategies for the US and European markets, including how to improve the vehicle to meet stringent safety standards in the West.
"The market potential for the F3DM might be much bigger in the United States because of the country's better sense of social responsibility and environmental protection. And electrical charging might be less of a problem in the US because many car owners have their own garages," Wang said in a recent interview with sina.com's auto website.
The F3DM is currently marketed at government and corporate buyers in China and sells for about 150,000 yuan.
BYD targets corporate and government buyers because of government subsidies (implemented on a trial basis in 13 Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen) for hybrid, electric and fuel-cell cars used in public transport, especially taxis and postal and urban sanitary service vehicles, said Xu.
The subsidies can be as much as 50,000 yuan for small hybrid passenger cars and up to 600,000 for large fuel-cell powered commercial buses.
BYD is in talks with the Shenzhen government on subsidizing taxi drivers using F3DMs, according to Wang.
Feedback from taxi drivers will be used to improve the cars before they are marketed to the general public in China, he added.
BYD is currently building specialized parking lots with electricity-charging ports to make recharging hybrid cars more convenient. These stations will charge the F3DMs' electric batteries to 50 percent power in 10 minutes. A household outlet can fully charge them in seven hours.
The F3DM can go 100 km on electric power alone and shifts to a gasoline engine when its electric battery runs low.
According to BYD, the F3DM consumes only 16 kWh for every 100 km driven when using only the electric battery. Driving the F3DM 100 km with the electric battery would cost just 9.6 yuan, much less than the 40 yuan it costs to go the same distance with a similar-sized conventional car.
But the retail price of the vehicle is nearly double that of the BYD's oil-fuelled F3.
(China Daily April 13, 2009)