Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on March 8, 2010
Can an automaker from China capitalize on the Toyota recall scandals? With the reputation of the Prius tarnished, the Chinese company backed by Warren Buffett, BYD, could hardly have found a better time to roll out its green cars in the U.S. and Europe. The company attracted Buffett’s attention in 2008 thanks to its green-car strategy, and a BYD spokesman today told Bloomberg News the company will begin selling its electric and hybrid cars in Europe next year. BYD hopes to start sales in the U.S. even earlier, with Chairman Wang Chuanfu saying in January that American drivers might be able to get behind the wheel of BYD cars by yearend. Helping BYD reach its export goals is a new partnership with Daimler; the two companies announced on March 2 plans to cooperate on building electric vehicles.
BYD has plenty of obstacles still to overcome. As the Bloomberg News story points out, the company only sold 48 of its hybrids in China last year and hasn’t even begun selling its E6 electric car in the Chinese market. Still, the Toyota scandal could prove to be a great equalizer for BYD. Before the recalls, many people would have doubted BYD’s ability to close the quality gap with Toyota. Now that the market leader has stumbled so badly, BYD has an easier job selling consumers on the idea there’s not that much difference between itself and mighty Toyota.