DETROIT BYD Co Ltd, a Chinese car and battery maker backed by Warren Buffett, expects to enter the mass U.S. auto market in the first quarter of 2012, starting with its e6 electric car model, its chairman said on Monday.
"The United States offers a huge opportunity for new-energy vehicles, especially pure electric," Chairman Wang Chuanfu told Reuters in an interview at the Detroit auto show.
"Many auto companies will pay attention to this market, and BYD will take this opportunity as well," he said through a translator, adding he wanted BYD to lead in the field of electric cars and buses in the world's second-biggest auto market.
"Our strategy in the U.S. market will probably focus on the pure electric segment," he said.
In its fourth consecutive appearance at the Detroit auto show, BYD is showcasing a series of electric vehicles, including the e6 and S6DM models, and other products such as solar panels and home energy storage units.
Wang said that while BYD has yet to work out in which U.S. cities and states to set up dealerships first, he expected to begin selling the zero-emission e6 as its first model in the first quarter of next year, followed by the S6DM, and eventually electric buses.
He said BYD would work with independent dealers to set up a sales network in the United States, although it was undecided whether they would be exclusive sellers of BYD cars.
BYD began pilot sales in Los Angeles at the end of 2010, and Wang said he hoped to expand test-marketing over the coming year.
BYD, which has sold several hundred e6 electric cars in China, mostly to government entities, will be competing against well-established automakers planning to offer pure electric vehicles (EVs) by 2012.
Among them, Toyota Motor Corp, Honda Motor Co and Ford Motor Co will have pure electric cars on offer in the United States by next year, joining Nissan Motor Co and Tesla Motors Inc in the segment.
Hong Kong-listed BYD has said it expects the e6 to cost around $42,000 when it hits showrooms in the United States, meaning it would likely need subsidies and other incentives to appeal to consumers.
BYD, which last year sealed a partnership with Daimler AG to develop electric cars for the Chinese market, also said his company was talking with an undisclosed number of global automakers over a deal to supply batteries for electric cars. He did not elaborate.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, editing by Matthew Lewis)