China's BYD plans to sell passenger cars in U.S. in 2-3 years: executive

A worker stands behind a car manufactured at a BYD assembly line in Shenzhen, China May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

BEIJING (Reuters) - BYD Co Ltd 002594.SZ1211.HK plans to sell electric passenger cars in the United States in about two to three years, an executive said on Thursday, as it races to be the first Chinese automaker to sell cars to American drivers.

BYD, backed by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc BRKa.N, specializes in electric and plug-in petrol-electric hybrid vehicles. At present, its U.S. presence is limited to producing buses and selling fleet vehicles such as taxis.

Li Yunfei, BYD’s deputy general manager for branding and public relations, said its passenger car plan was not fixed as entering the U.S. was a complicated process.

“It could be adjusted,” Li said at an event in Beijing. “Now we can only say roughly 2 to 3 years.”

China’s government has used a raft of policies, including billions of dollars in subsidies, to spur a boom in electric and plug-in hybrid sales since 2015. The U.S., meanwhile, has lagged.

BYD has had false starts in the U.S., with Chairman Wang Chuanfu previously saying the automaker would begin selling in the U.S. in 2010. Other Chinese peers have also encountered delays in entering the market.

GAC Motor, a subsidiary of Guangzhou Automobile Group Co Ltd 601238.SS, displayed three models at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this month, stating it would enter the U.S. by 2019 instead of a previous goal of 2017.

A GAC Motor spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the delay.

Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Christopher Cushing