Posted by: David Kiley on January 14, 2008
I’m as hopeful as anyone that electric plug-in vehicles are on the way. But pardon me if I can’t get excited about the pronouncements of BYD Auto’s plans for the U.S.
Despite the fact that my colleague, David Welch, wrote a piece on BYD’s plug-in plans for China and eventually the U.S. for BusinessWeek this week, and The Wall Street Journal put their BYD story on A1, I can’t help but think, who cares?
Or maybe it’s just that I’m weary of hearing about the Chinese invasion of the U.S. I wrote a story about Malcolm Bricklin’s venture with Chinese automaker Chery to bring Chinese cars to the U.S. That went by the side of the road. Then it was Brilliance that was going to launch in the U.S. I spoke with those people for a story, too. Where are they? Geely is here again at the NAIAS talking about their venture into U.S. The snores in the press gallery were audible.
BYD, Welch argues in my ear, is the fastest-growing car company in China and one of the biggest suppliers of lithium ion batteries in the world. Congratulations. And I once knew the most promising ballerina in Galveston Texas.
Certifying autombiles for sales in the U.S. is no business for fools or pretenders. It’s hard, expensive work. Then you have to line up a roster of well-capitalized, serious dealers. You have to get 1,000 things right before you start selling cars in the U.S. And I’m being conservative. Then you have to win the confidence of a critical mass of buyers around a brand they have never heard of.
Pardon me if I just don’t think any of the Chinese companies I have encountered, or their U.S. distributors, are up to all that any time soon. By 2020 maybe. I can’t get excited about a three year plan that turns into seven, and then probably ten while they learn all the things about ramping up in the U.S. that they thought they knew.