Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD has signed off on entering the Australian market this year — and it plans on being much more than just another car brand.
Since its founding in 2003, it has grown to be a global EV leader, shifting more than 415,000 vehicles in its home market last year.
At a Sydney Harbour signing ceremony, BYD Asia Pacific general manager Liu Xueliang signed an agreement with local company Nexport to handle its Australian distribution.
Nexport managing director Luke Todd said a number of models would soon make it to Australia, with the first a compact-to-medium SUV to be revealed at the Shanghai motor show in April.
BYD (or Build Your Dreams) differentiates itself with its “Blade Battery”, which has a unique layout offering more power and better safety should the battery be damaged.
But according to Mr Todd, the big benefit to Australian buyers will be the price.
“The vehicles that we’ll be releasing will be vehicles that everyone is trying to achieve as the Holy Grail of electric vehicles: price parity comparisons to internal combustion engines,” he said.
“So, high quality vehicles at the same price you pay for petrol cars.”
Customers won’t buy BYD vehicles from traditional dealerships. Instead, BYD will opt for a factory direct model, where buyers purchase their cars via Nexport’s online platform, EV Direct.
However BYD will still have “experience centres” where potential buyers can see the product firsthand.
“The flagship centre will be in Sydney in the middle of this year,” Mr Todd said.
“We do have ambitions to set one up in WA; the time frame is unknown but it wouldn’t surprise us if it happened by the end of the year.
“The money we’re saving from heavy infrastructure and flash dealerships, we’re reinvesting in better aftercare.”
This includes mobile vans visiting an owner’s home or work to conduct services and also provide a charge if a vehicle’s battery has run flat.
“The whole concept is, let’s say we have to do a safety check and the normal protocol might be every nine months,” Mr Todd said.
“We will send that service to your work or home or wherever is convenient, do the safety check, plug in the computer and do a diagnostic report on the vehicle.
“We make it much more seamless for the customer.”
Mr Todd said Australian buyer attitudes towards Chinese vehicles had changed significantly recently, citing the 71 per cent rise in China-sourced car sales last year.
He said China has become “the new Detroit” for EVs.
“All of the top quality is coming out of China — Tesla and all the big auto makers have factories in China in the Guangzhou area,” he said.
“It’s the new centre of excellence for electric vehicles.”
However, Nexport isn’t only going to import foreign vehicles. It has invested $700 million into creating Australia’s first zero-emission electric vehicle production centre, which will see electric buses and commercial vehicles built in the Southern Highlands area of New South Wales.
“That will be our national hub but we also plan to have satellite facilities for production, predominantly for commercial vehicles because its hard to produce cars in small volume in this country,” Mr Todd said.
“But we are an Australian owned and operated company; we want to do as much manufacturing here as possible.”