China’s BYD plans European expansion with 3 electric models


THE HAGUE — The Chinese automaker BYD, the world’s biggest seller of full-electric cars, will expand in Europe starting this year with three models: the Atto 3 compact crossover, the Tang large SUV and the Han large sedan, executives said.

BYD began selling the Tang on a pilot basis in Norway in August 2021. In the first phase of the expansion sales will start next month in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, as well as Israel. A second phase, starting before the end of the year will involve the largest European markets: Germany, France and the UK.

The company announced the strategy this week at an event in The Hague, Netherlands, where it offered test drives to journalists and access to executives. 

No prices for the Atto 3 or Han or sales targets were given; BYD said more details would be released in October at the Paris auto show, where all three models will be displayed (see fact box, below).

Brian Yang, assistant managing director BYD Europe, said there was no date set for a third sales phase, which would involve countries such as Italy and Spain, where BYD has started building dealer networks. BYD’s international expansion includes Australia and Japan, where it is also starting sales in 2022.

BYD executives described the brand’s positioning as “accessible premium.” The 4-wheel drive, 380 kW 7-seater Tang is priced in Norway at the equivalent of 64,000 euros; a 240 kW BMW iX full electric SUV starts in Norway at the equivalent of 86,500 euros.

The Atto 3, expected to be BYD’s best-seller in Europe, is on a new platform (e-platform 3.0) which features a standard heat pump and an electric powertrain that integrates the motor, inverter, power electronics and on-board charger. The price of the Chinese version of the Atto 3, called Yuan Plus, starts from the equivalent of 22,500 euros before subsidies.

Yang said BYD’s benchmarks in Europe are mainstream brands such as Volkswagen and Hyundai/Kia, both of which have launched new EV models on dedicated architecture in the past year.

He said that the main selling point of BYD might be its battery technology. The company, which was founded in 1995 as a battery maker and only turned to producing cars in 2003, is the third-largest EV battery producer after CATL and LG.

BYD had revenues of 31.4 billion euros in 2021; it is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange and has a market value of approximately 120 billion euros, the third highest after Tesla and Toyota. Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway is a major investor, with a stake worth an estimated $8 billion.

In Europe, BYD will also compete with a surge of Chinese entrants, many of whom are EV-only. They include SAIC’s MG, Nio, Aiways, XPeng, Hongqi and Great Wall. Analyst Matthias Schmidt said this month that the Chinese brands could find an opening in the mainstream segments, based on what he called “disappointing” premium EV sales in Norway, which has the highest full-electric penetration of any market in Europe and is often seen as a testbed for EV brands. 

In contrast to some automakers, such as VW, Mercedes and Stellantis, which are moving toward a direct-sales “agency” model to sell EVs, BYD will use a version of the traditional retail model, which it calls “dealer+.” BYD will act as the importer for each country and work with one or more large dealer groups to set up a sales network. 

Those dealer partners have already been selected for the countries in the first phases of the expansion strategy: Louwman in the Netherlands, Hedin Mobility Group in Sweden and Germany, Nic. Christiansen Group in Denmark, RSA in Norway and Shlomo Motors in Israel.

European sales director Pere Brugal said that for example, the process is fairly advanced in the Netherlands, where BYD chose a single group (Louwman) for sales and after sales/service. Brugal said dedicated BYD-only locations would open soon in select cities, but that after sales could be shared with other brands.

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