Here’s how BYD is working on its image problem

Here's how BYD is working on its image problem

China’s BYD is selling millions of EVs, famously outselling Tesla in the last quarter of 2023, and riding an enormous wave of success. But not many Europeans (and practically no Americans) have ever heard of it, much less trust it as a reliable brand. But as the EV giant makes inroads outside of China, it is looking to change that, the old-school way, dealer by dealer.

While European automakers have been shifting over to direct sales à la Tesla, China’s BYD, for Build Your Dreams, along with Chinese peers Xpend and Great Wall Motor are looking to dealers to build sales and provide networks to help their brands build solid reputations and trust among Europeans. And now, BYD is setting up its BYD-only shop in Germany.

“European consumers have no inkling of Chinese brands,” Daniel Kirchert, the head of e-mobility consultancy Noyo and former BMW executive, told Automotive News Europe. “It’s a huge challenge for Chinese carmakers to make clear to Europeans that their cars are on par with Tesla, at a better price.”

Reuters reports that BYD just opened up its new BYD-only shop in Berlin in its latest move to grow the brand in a country that loves German cars and Teslas. The strategy is to help get German EV shoppers closer to the brand, raise brand awareness, and build sales of its affordable EVs in Europe’s largest automobile market. While BYD has done well in some European markets, it ranks a distant third among China’s Geely’s Volvo, Polestar, and Lotus, and MG brand, owned by SAIC, Automotive New Europe reports.

‘Just like Tesla, only cheaper’

The automaker is putting five models on sale in Germany at a shop owned by dealership Sternauto, which has exclusive rights to sell BYD cars in eastern Germany, Reuters reports. While the Atto3, Han, and Tang surely aren’t stunners, BYD is leaning on the fact that they are practical and affordable – and that strategy has worked well for other automakers expanding globally, such as Korea’s Hyundai and Kia. Plus BYD has thousands of engineers working to ramp up its smart tech game, so BYD is aiming for a just-like-Tesla-only-cheaper angle.

BYD Atto 3 (Source: BYD)

“One of the biggest topics for BYD is that it is not that familiar to German customers,” Oliver Hein, head of BYD for Sternauto, told Reuters. But that is changing, he says, as the brand is investing heavily in marketing.

BYD, too, is sticking to the auto show model to build its reputation, and will be among just a handful of big-name automakers attending the Geneva Motor Show, including Renault, Dacia, BG, and Lucid.

Last year, the company sold 1.6 million fully battery-electric vehicles, overtaking Telsa in overall BEV sales. Adding up sales for all so-called new energy vehicles, including battery-only vehicles and plug-in hybrids, BYD sold 3 million vehicles in 2023. Still, 90% of its revenue comes from sales in China.

While BYD is targeting Germany, which has been among the global leaders in its transition to EVs, the country is expected to see a 14% drop in EV sales this year.

BYD is also among the Chinese companies that have come under harsh scrutiny from Europe due to subsidy policies that put Europe at a competitive disadvantage, all while being thrust into a trade war with North America and Europe.

Meanwhile, the US and Europe are tightening their rules on Chinese cars and EV parts being sold in their countries, with tariffs so high in the US that China has turned its focus on other areas, namely South America, Asia, and Europe.

Electrek reported yesterday that BYD had just signed a preliminary land purchase deal for its EV plant in Hungary. It is also building plants in Brazil and Thailand.

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