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American taxi fleets will be allowed to buy electric cars from Chinese automaker Build Your Dreams (BYD) despite the brand’s choice not to offer at the consumer level.
It’s not clear if Chinese automaker BYD is more famous because of its billionaire investor Warren Buffet, or because of its continued failed promises to sell cars in North America. Soon, however, you might recognize the brand as your emissions free transportation to and from the office. That’s because BYD is preparing to launch its new eBUS-12, the world’s first fully electric full size bus.
Measuring 12 meters (40 feet) in length, the potentially revolutionary bus will have a range of 250 km in urban driving and will debut at Busworld (sounds exciting, we know), in Kortrijk, Belgium on Friday, October 21st.
BYD will also then announce plans for a European launch strategy with tests of the new bus in several major European capitals. Like with its cars, there’s no word of BYD selling buses in North America.
Of all the Chinese automakers, BYD (or Build Your Dreams) has been pegged for several years now as the one to bet on. A battery company turned car manufacturer, BYD was the first from China to display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, holding a press conference and making claims that have yet to come to fruition.
But more important than all this was a major investment by the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett himself. It wasn’t so much the money, pouring $232 million into BYD, as it was the psychological factor with Buffett known for making the right decisions when it comes to money.
If continued delays and broken promises might not be enough to see Buffett back out, new WikiLeaks cables obtained by Reuters might. In the cables Guangzhou Consul-General Brian Goldbeck comments on the possible intellectual property rights infringements carried out by BYD. “While BYD has certainly achieved a measure of success based on a business approach of copying and then modifying car designs just enough to convince Chinese courts that the company has not infringed on patents, it is far less certain that foreign courts will be as sympathetic.”
A report by U.S. government officials on the company was even titled, “BYD seeks to ‘Build Your Dreams’ — based on Someone Else’s Designs.”
Other questionable business practices include partnering with foreign automakers only to steal their part designs, ordering initial shipments of parts only to then cancel, while reverse-engineering and then mass-producing them for wider use in BYD’s own vehicles. And to make matters worse, the new parts are often of shoddy, or even unsafe, quality.
Other leaked cables include info that BYD lied about a five-star safety rating for its F0 car – itself a mirror of the Toyota Aygo.
And in what could be seen as an admission of its copycat designs, other info points to BYD dealers actually selling cars with the logos of other automakers – telling unaware consumers that the car is in fact the real thing.
But perhaps the biggest reason for Buffet to back out lies with BYD’s battery technology which reportedly fails to live up to expectations. One cable quotes an embassy official who, after a visit to BYD headquarters, reported that only 100 F3DM electric vehicles had been sold due mostly to the battery life and performance that, “falls considerably short of expectations.”
In previous reports a Berkshire Hathaway exec told Reuters that the reason for the investment was entirely about BYD’s battery technology and not the ability to build a car.
Volkswagen and Chinese automaker BYD (Build Your Dreams) have signed a “memorandum of understanding” announcing that the two car manufacturers will seek ways to work together to bring electric vehicles and hybrids to market.
Volkswagen recently announced its TwinDrive diesel-electric hybrid system and we recently reported on a rumor that the German automaker will bring an electric car to the Frankfurt Auto Show in September. BYD, which is now part-owned by Warren Buffett, already has a two plug-in gasoline-electric hybrids (the F3DM and the F6DM) on the road in China and plans to bring a full electric car (the e6, shown above) to market soon.
After an informal meeting in Germany, where BYD representatives had the chance to see VW’s facilities and drive the TwinDrive Golf (as well as the still-under-wraps electric car), the agreement was signed by Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, Dr Martin Winterkorn, and the Chairman of the Board of Management of BYD, Wang Chuanfu.
Official release after the jump:
After General Motors made it clear in its viability report submitted to the U.S. Treasury that the future of Saturn was uncertain at best, it appears as though Saturn’s network of dealers has its own plan.
Dan Januska, owner of Saturn of Scottsdale, told the Wall Street Journal that the dealers have been in talks to work with a foreign automaker from either China or India. The deal would see Saturn dealers keep their dealerships and retain the Saturn brand, and sell vehicles badged as Saturns, but made by another manufacturer, possibly Chery, Tata, Geely or Build Your Dreams (BYD).
“There are not a whole lot of alternatives,” said Januska to the Journal, “Someone is going to see the value of us and I don’t know who it will be.”
GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner commented on the possibility of the sale of the Saturn name (something General Motors would certainly like to see happen), stating that, “It’s a good distribution network. If someone comes up with an offer, we’re very open to that.”
As we already reported, General Motors stated in its viability plan that it will continue to produce and deliver vehicles to Saturn dealers until 2012, after which GM has no plans for the brand.
[Source: LeftLaneNews via the Wall Street Journal]