SHANGHAI -- Customers of BYD Co., the world's biggest electric vehicle maker by sales, have taken the unusual step of urging regulators to expand a battery replacement recall to safeguard the reputation of a national champion.
Two BYD customers told Reuters they and others questioned why BYD had instructed dealers to replace batteries in their cars which were not subject to the recall. Though compensated, the customers said they wanted BYD to be more transparent.
The Shenzhen-based automaker did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment.
BYD has been a major beneficiary in the auto industry's rapid shift toward electrification, propelled by the backing of U.S. billionaire investor Warren Buffett. The three-decade-old company has seen sales more than quadruple so far in 2022, largely shrugging off a slump brought by COVID-19 containment measures.
A maker of both electric light vehicles and buses, BYD also builds batteries which it has portrayed as the industry's safest and which it is close to supplying U.S. rival Tesla Inc., BYD's executive vice president has said.
It is this success that supporters fear could be undermined by public relations missteps. BYD's image has already taken a hit this year when its factory emissions were blamed for causing nosebleeds among local children. BYD said it complied with emissions rules and called the nosebleed allegations malicious.
"As an icon of the Chinese EV sector, BYD is failing us," said one complainant surnamed Wu. "It should be more transparent and honest facing such problems."
The complaints center on the Tang DM-i plug-in hybrid crossover launched in April 2021 and priced around 200,000 yuan ($29,839.61). Tang DM is BYD's best-selling premium model with September-May sales exceeding 60,000 vehicles.
In April 2022, the State Administration of Market Regulation announced a recall of 9,663 Tang DM-i vehicles, saying a defect in the battery pack could cause fires.
Three Tang DM-i owners told Reuters their EVs were not on the recall list but that dealers in June had called them in to replace their batteries. Two said they were told the swap was due to quality issues and that the dealers would not elaborate.
The third said the dealer, when pressed, revealed the swap was requested by BYD and was due to the April recall. A bill seen by Reuters showed all charges covered by the manufacturer.
Two said they and others had submitted letters of complaint at SAMR's Defective Product Administrative Center after contact with BYD proved fruitless. They want an investigation into what they called a "secret recall" for fear of any damage to one of China's best-known international brands.
"BYD is growing too fast while its management is not able to keep up with its growth," said a complainant, who declined to be identified due to privacy concerns. "We hope this giant can make breakthroughs from this lesson and create real achievements."
It was unclear what criteria was necessary for SAMR to act. The regulator did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment.
A dealer in Sichuan said the Tang DM-i was being "widely recalled" but was unsure whether the scope was beyond the public recall. A Shanghai dealer owned by BYD declined to comment. A Shenzhen dealer did not respond to requests for comment.