Imagine a dealership that sells not only electric cars but also battery storage units, home solar panels, LED light bulbs and other accoutrements of a low-carbon lifestyle.
That's the kind of store being considered by BYD, a Chinese automaker that also produces cell phone batteries and solar panels.
BYD, which is bankrolled by Warren Buffett, plans to begin retail sales of its e6 five-door hatchback electric car this month in China. Micheal Austin, vice president of BYD America, said the e6 could be launched here in the first quarter of 2012 -- in dealerships he likens to Apple computer stores, where customers shop for laptops, iPods, iPhones and other Apple products.
"It's not a just a dealership," Austin said. "You're not just buying cars -- you're buying elements of the green solution. We already make all of these things. The only way we can educate customers on the components within this ecosystem is through these Apple-like stores that are not just selling electric vehicles."
After introducing the e6 to retail customers in China, BYD plans to follow through on an agreement to provide some Los Angeles area government fleets with the electric vehicles this year. That deal likely will include rapid-charging and energy-storage infrastructure for the fleets. BYD will then collect charging and performance data from the fleets.
Austin said details of BYD's first step into the U.S. retail market will become clearer in the next few months.