DETROIT -- BYD Co., which originally planned to launch U.S. retail sales of the e6 electric crossover in 2011, has pushed the U.S. launch of its EV and plug-in hybrid back to 2012.
Now the company is trying to reassure skeptics who question its EV strategy. Mike Austin, vice president of BYD's U.S. operations, said Monday that the automaker has leased 10 plug-in hybrids -- dubbed the F3DM -- to the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles.
BYD, which is 10 percent-owned by billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., plans to lease some units of its e6 electric crossover to other government organizations, too.
Austin says the company delayed the launch of the e6, which was supposed to go on sale this year, to redesign the vehicle's floor. The original version's rear seat did not have enough leg room, Austin said. BYD will take the time to make sure its products are ready for the U.S. market, Austin insisted.
“We are in no rush to launch our vehicle,” he said. “Our main market is in China.”
After years of breakneck growth, BYD has become China's largest private automaker. But the company ran into trouble in 2010 when it added too many dealers too quickly. A number of Chinese dealers went bankrupt, and the company's sales of 520,000 units fell far short of its 800,000-unit target.
In the U.S., Austin says BYD will sell vehicles through five independent dealerships which also will sell non-automotive products such as solar panels, LED lights and home charging stations.