DETROIT -- Chinas BYD Auto plans to sell pricey, not budget, vehicles in the United States in 2011.
The F6DM plug-in hybrid sedan will sell for less than $30,000, Chairman Wang Chuanfu told Automotive News China on Sunday at the Detroit auto show. The E6 electric van will be priced between $30,000 and $40,000, he says.
Many questions are unanswered, however. The cars batteries use a lithium iron phosphate chemistry developed by BYD. Wang says the battery has been tested in China, but the results have not been made public.
The government has given us permission to sell it in China, which is proof that it is ready for consumers, says Wang.
But the cars have not passed federal strict safety and emissions tests for the U.S. market.
The most difficult issue could be certification for sale here, Wang acknowledges.
No U.S. dealership network exists for the cars; BYD is still evaluating how to distribute the cars, says Wang.
Sales volume for the two models depends on what incentives are in place in the United States for alternative fuel vehicles, says Wang.
BYD plans to work with a U.S. company to build a network of recharging stations, but hasnt decided on a partner yet, says Wang.
BYD will build a battery manufacturing facility in the United States when it is appropriate, says Wang.
Sales volume for the two models depends what incentives are in place in the United States for alternative fuel vehicles, says Wang.
Warren Buffetts MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. invested $230 million in BYD in September . That money is being used for alternative fuel product development, says Wang.
David Sokol, chairman of MidAmerican, says his company will not be helping BYD develop a distribution system in the United States. MidAmerican is predominantly interested in BYDs battery storage and solar research and development capability, says Sokol.
We dont bring much expertise to the automotive side other than driving cars, he says.
In December, BYD began selling the F3DM plug in hybrid in China. The car is pricey at 149,800 yuan or $21,913 at current exchange rates. BYD has sold only a few hundred, all to government agencies.
The high price is due to low volume production, says Wang. Higher volumes -- and lower prices -- await government incentives, he says.