China automaker BYD is in no hurry to launch in the States, and it shows in its plan.
BYD has been displaying cars at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit for three years now, and it originally planned to launch an electric car by the end of 2012 to consumers. Now that's looking like 2013, according to Mike Austin, vice president of BYD's U.S. division.
In the meantime, BYD is testing some cars in a fleet with the Housing Authority of Los Angeles.
The plan is for the company to find at least five dealers who are willing to not only sell a BYD e6 electric and a plug-in hybrid, called the f3DM, but also BYD LED lights, solar panels and other products related to "green" living. "We aren't pursuing the typical sales and distribution model," says Austin.
BYD has gained notoriety for its rapid rise in China and for the investment in the company made by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, which owns 10 percent of the company best known for lithium-ion batteries for mobile phones and other consumer electronics.
Last year, BYD sold 520,000 vehicles in China – impressive but well short of its stated goal of 800,000 units.
Austin says the company has not selected dealers yet, but acknowledged that the business model for selling BYD's other products will not appeal to some dealers. "That's okay, because we are doing something unique here. We are in not in a hurry to launch in the U.S.," says Austin, who noted the growth in the Chinese market that BYD is trying to manage.
The five dealers BYD is looking for at launch is the start of a network planned to grow to 20, and according to Austin, not all of the dealerships at launch will be in California.