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Beijing show: BYD to head upmarket

Famous five: The BYD L3 sedan is one of five petrol-powered models to be introduced at the Beijing motor show by BYD.

China’s burgeoning BYD brand to unveil five new petrol models in Beijing this week

19 Apr 2010

FIVE new petrol models will take centre stage at this week’s Beijing motor show exhibit by BYD, which could become Australia’s fifth Chinese brand in Australia next year.

BYD, which says it plans to become the world’s largest car-maker by 2025, confirmed to Automotive News that its Beijing debuts would comprise new compact sedans called the L3 and I6, the M6 minivan, G6 large sedan and an SUV badged as the S6.

They are expected to debut alongside existing BYD models including the F0 micro-car, the F3 sedan and F3R hatch light-cars, G3 small sedan and the F6 medium sedan, plus the F3DM and F6DM plug-in hybrids and the e6 full-electric people-mover shown at Detroit in January.

Any of these models could potentially be made available in Australia, given the fast-growing car-maker is reportedly in talks with an Australian distributor.

Sydney-based importer Ateco Automotive – which already imports Great Wall vehicles and will launch Australia’s second Chinese brand, Chery, in August – concedes it has held regular talks with BYD and says it hopes to sell its first Chinese EV here in 2011.

Geely also is on target for an Australian launch this year via a range of small passenger cars, as is Lifan, whose light-sized 520 sedan has already received official Australian Design Rule certification.

193 center image From top: BYD F0, F3, F3R and F6.

According to Automotive News, all five of BYD’s new petrol models will be priced higher than BYD's existing products, most of which sell for less than 80,000 yuan ($A12,700), when they go on sale in China after this week’s show.

As we reported after its Detroit debut, the e6 EV is powered by BYD's own lithium-ion battery pack and is claimed to have a driving range of 300km and a top speed of 160km/h. Both the e6 EV and F3DM plug-in hybrid are scheduled to go on sale in the UK in 2012.

BYD’s current model line-up opens with the 2430mm-long F0 five-door that weighs just 870kg and is powered by a 50kW/90Nm 1.0-litre triple-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission.

Next up is the 4533mm-long F3 sedan, which weighs 1200kg and comes with a 78kW/134Nm 1.5-litre SOHC 16-valve four plus a 1.6-litre engine, while the F3R is essentially a five-door hatch version that is slightly shorter at 4325mm.

The Corolla-sized G3 sedan is bookended by the mid-size F6 sedan, which is powered in China by a 103kW/186Nm 2.0-litre engine with a five-speed manual gearbox or a Mitsubishi-sourced 121kW/220Nm 2.4-litre engine with an automatic transmission.

BYD, which stands for ‘Build Your Dreams’, sold 445,097 petrol-powered cars in 2009 and hopes to boost sales to 800,000 units this year, which would see it overtake Chery as China’s largest independent car-maker.

Backed by billionaire US investor Warren Buffett, BYD has also signed an agreement with Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler to building an EV for China from 2014 under a new brand in a deal described at last month’s Geneva motor show as “the coming together of the world’s oldest and newest car-makers”.

Daimler says it hopes to use lessons learned from BYD to lower the cost of other new EVs it is developing, including plug-in versions of the next Smart ForTwo and ForFour as well as Mercedes’ MkIII A-class and MkII B-class.

Apart from teaming up with Renault on a wide range of business activities, the deal is expected to see Daimler design the EV at its new Shanghai styling studio, with engineering set to be shared between the two companies and production to take place at BYD’s massive manufacturing site in Shenzhen, China.

Late last month, BYD announced that the F3DM, which it describes as the world’s first mass-produced dual-mode EV, had gone on sale to private Chinese customers in Shenzhen in the Guangdong Province at a price of RMB 169,800 ($A26,956).

Ateco Automotive managing director Ric Hull said that while Chery was the largest independent producer in China with a target of 700,000 to 800,000 units this year, “BYD is running behind them and they came out of nowhere”.

“Ten years ago the car market in China was the same size as Australia, and two years ago it was being predicted that the market would reach 16 million by 2020,” he said.

“No one ever dreamed that it might actually reach 20 million in 2010. So it is proving to be virtually impossible for anyone to keep up with the extent of the demand.”

Mr Hull said some of China’s rapid automotive industry growth was driven by government incentives, with sales tax being reduced from 10 per cent to five per cent before increasing to 7.5 per cent this year.

“There is a little bit of incentive there but the market has just gone berserk,” he said.

“What fascinates me is I don’t know how they meet the demand. I don’t think even the Japanese or the Koreans could increase production by five million in one year when you take into account all the addition tools and production equipment that needs to be put in place. How do you make five million more cars in just 12 months?”

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