BYD, the Chinese automaker notoriously known for being backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has said Chinese cars are poised to begin hitting U.S. showrooms by next year.
Stella Li, the senior vice president in charge of the company’s U.S. business, said in an interview last week in Shenzhen, China, that BYD plans to introduce about four models for its U.S. debut at the end of 2015.
BYD’s ambitions, echoed by companies from Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. (175) to Great Wall Motor Co. (2333), show how the Chinese are seeking to shake up the U.S. car market as the Japanese and South Koreans did decades earlier. Geely and Chery Automobile Co. have made such predictions as far back as 2005, though they’ve yet to sell their first car in America.
BYD is returning its sights to the U.S. after billionaire founder and Chairman Wang Chuanfu completed a three-year reorganization 2013, during which he cut the number of dealerships and narrowed losses at its solar business thanks to state incentives.
Technically BYD is already in the U.S. vehicle market, though it sells electric buses to fleet operators, instead of cars to consumers. The company is preparing to begin U.S. production of electric buses in March at its factory in Lancaster, California, according to Li. The company had previously planned to sell its e6 electric hatchbacks in the country by the end of 2010, though that got postponed.
“Back then, we had passion, but we had no brand, no history, no capital and no competitive advantage,” said Li, 43, who spoke at BYD’s headquarters in China’s southern Guangdong province. “BYD has become more fashionable and we have improved our design and safety. We don’t want to compete on price anymore, but on quality and innovation.”
BYD isn’t the only Chinese automaker pursuing the American consumer. Geely, whose parent owns Volvo Cars, plans to export cars developed with the Swedish brand to the U.S. in 2016, Geely Chief Executive Officer Gui Shengyue said in August. Great Wall Motor, China’s biggest SUV maker, doesn’t have any official timetable to exporting to the U.S., said Xu Chengzhi, a company spokesman.