Take heed, Toyota. Volkswagen, be wary. Here comes BYD.
The small but growing Chinese company has declared on its Web site that it will "become the world's largest automaker before 2025."
That's about seven years after VW says it expects to overtake Toyota, which bypassed General Motors to become No. 1 two years ago.
Sure enough, BYD did fabulously well in 2009, more than doubling sales to 440,000 vehicles. Its F3 compact was the top-selling car in China, and the company has made cars for only seven years.
BYD, which plans to launch two cars in Europe next year, expects to sell 800,000 vehicles this year. But climbing to No. 1 will take some doing. Toyota last year produced more than 7 million vehicles worldwide, about 16 times what BYD turned out.
Still, BYD has its believers. Investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway owns 10 percent of BYD, which also makes batteries and other electronic equipment.
"BYD is a company that can't be underestimated," said Charles Guo, an analyst with JPMorgan Chase. "If the Chinese vehicle market expands 10 percent this year, BYD's sales will grow at least 40 percent -- 50 or even 60 percent is also a possibility."