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China’s BYD to sell green cars in Europe next year

ROAD ALTERNATIVES The automaker is working with Daimler to develop electric vehicles for its home market, but plans to sell in Europe and the US

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BYD Co (比亞迪), the automaker backed by Warren Buffett, plans to start selling electric and hybrid cars in western Europe next year as the first Chinese company to market alternative energy-powered vehicles in the region.

The E6 electric car is among the models BYD plans to introduce, Paul Lin, a company spokesman, said by telephone yesterday.

The Shenzhen-based carmaker may eventually design and build cars in Europe, he said.

BYD has teamed up with Daimler AG to develop electric vehicles in China and plans to begin selling cars in Europe and the US as consumers seek to curb spending on gasoline and reduce emissions.

Nissan Motor Co and PSA Peugeot Citroen will also start selling electric vehicles in Europe this year, intensifying competition.

“BYD is taking the right strategy by expanding into European and US markets, given that consumers in developed markets have higher acceptance for electric and hybrid cars,” said Han Weiqi, an analyst with CSC Securities Hong Kong Ltd in Shanghai.

“But the competitiveness of their E6 and other hybrid models is yet to be tested,” Han said.

BYD sold 48 of its F3DM hybrid vehicles last year to corporate and government customers in China and hasn’t yet started selling the E6 model in its home market.

The automaker may start US sales this year, BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu (王傳福) said in January.

The first E6 hatchbacks will arrive in the US late in the year, said Henry Li (李竺杭), general manager of BYD’s auto export division.

BYD said the five-passenger car could travel 322km on a charge.

BYD, the fastest-growing Chinese automaker last year, rose 1.9 percent to HK$65 (US$8.4) as of 3:24pm in Hong Kong trading. The shares have declined 5 percent this year.

BYD and Daimler said last Tuesday that they would cooperate on developing an electric vehicle for the Chinese market. That model may be sold overseas in the future, Lin said yesterday.

Stuttgart-based Daimler, the world’s second-largest maker of luxury cars, and BYD may invest more than 100 million euros (US$137 million) in the venture, Daimler’s chief executive officer Dieter Zetsche said last week.

BYD also signed an electric-vehicle agreement in May with Volkswagen, Europe’s largest automaker. Volkswagen and BYD will explore cooperation in areas including hybrid cars and lithium battery-powered electric vehicles, the Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker said in a May 25 statement.

BYD was China’s sixth-biggest car manufacturer by sales last year. The automaker, 10 percent owned by Buffett’s Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc, introduced its plug-in hybrid car in December 2008.

China’s auto market grew to 13.6 million units last year, surpassing the US for the first time. While overall passenger-car sales in the country grew 53 percent, BYD’s deliveries jumped 160 percent to about 450,000 vehicles, Wang said in January.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp and Peugeot said yesterday they reached a final agreement on electric-car development and supply.

The Paris-based carmaker will sell electric vehicles under the Peugeot and Citroen brands. Production will begin in October and European sales will start by the end of the year.

The agreement covers 100,000 vehicles, the companies said.

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