BYD is building its dreams in Brazil after outgunning electric-vehicle rivals in its native China last year. The Shenzhen battery, solar panel, and electric vehicle maker has unveiled plans to open a manufacturing base in Campinas, Sao Paulo later this year.
The factory will produce batteries and buses along with solar panels, Shanghai Daily reported. There are also proposals for a second plant that will make bus chassis, to cut the cost of imported parts.
In addition to manufacturing plans, the company announced a novel leasing deal whereby Brazilian bus and taxi owners can purchase a battery-free BYD vehicle for the same price as a diesel equivalent, and then rent the batteries.
BYD (slogan: ‘Build Your Dreams’) has already sold buses in Campinas and Sao Paulo. And it is in negotiations with authorities in Rio de Janeiro, where it has also won a bid to provide a fleet of 300 electric cars for car sharing. The Brazil announcements are part of moves to cut city pollution ahead of the Olympic Games in 2016, Shanghai Daily said. They follow record sales of the BYD Qin plug-in hybrid in China last year.
BYD Auto shifted 14,747 Qins, more than twice the number of vehicles sold by its nearest competitor, the Zotye Zhidou E20, according China Association of Automobile Manufacturers figures published online. Another BYD Auto model, the all-electric e6, also made it onto the top 10 list after selling 3,560 units in China. Adding 132 sales of the Denza, BYD’s joint-venture model with Daimler, gave BYD almost a quarter of the 74,763 plug-in electric vehicle purchases reported sold by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers for 2014.
BYD’s home market was boosted last year by a 24-month mandate requiring 30 percent of all new government vehicles to be fueled by alternative energy sources. In addition, a 10 percent purchase tax on domestic and foreign electric cars has been waived until 2017.
Despite helping to grow the market by 324 percent compared to 2013, however, the measures look set to fall short of achieving a Chinese government target of 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by the end of this year. Instead, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers expects the market to hit between 150,000 and 200,000 units this year.
It will be small comfort for BYD, which had also been banking on faster electric-vehicle market growth in China and last month had to announce a 21 percent drop in preliminary full-year profits for 2014, despite revenue growth of 10.3 percent.
The company now appears to be increasingly eyeing foreign markets. Besides Brazil, BYD is selling cars in Belgium, Colombia, Costa Rica, and the U.K., among other countries.
Admittedly, the numbers are small: 200 e6s for the London chauffeur-car service Thriev, for example. Where it has been perhaps most successful internationally is in commercializing electric buses. BYD has placed these in pilot schemes as far afield as Turkey and Uruguay.
And last month, the company, which is 10 percent owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, trumpeted its success at becoming the first Chinese auto maker to enter the Japanese market after securing an order for five buses in Kyoto.
"The Japanese market has stringent requirements for technology and quality,” observed Liu Xueliang, general manager of BYD's Asia Pacific auto group, in a press release.
Green transportation looks to be the ace up BYD’s sleeve going forward.
Before announcing its profit drop last month, the company had shored up its standing with investors by selling its Shenzhen BYD Electronic Components subsidiary to touchscreen-maker Holitech in a deal worth 2.3 billion Yuan (about $367 million).
Stocks leapt at the news. But the most recent fillip for BYD investors had nothing to do with any action from the company. Instead, earlier this month it benefited from the airing of a video on Chinese air pollution that has become a viral hit.
Sensing the documentary may prompt China’s administration to enact new environmental protection measures, Credit Suisse analysts said: “BYD should be the key beneficiary.”
The analyst firm has a ‘buy’ recommendation on BYD shares, as does Goldman Sachs, which last month predicted BYD could grow by an annualized 57 percent between now and 2020.