Consumers may be cool to launch, waiting for subsidy plan decision
BEIJING: Chinese carmaker BYD Co kicked off retail sales of its electric-hybrid vehicle Monday, but is banking on the possibility a proposed government subsidy will spark sales of the vehicle in China.
The Warren Buffett-backed company launched the new model, the F3DM, on Monday at its headquarters in Shenzhen.
With a window-sticker price of 169,800 yuan ($24,855), sales may start off slow as car buyers may wait until plans for a government subsidy are finalized in July.
The updated, low-emission version has a solar panel on the roof of the car, which allows it to run on gasoline, electricity and solar energy.
The F3DM has a range of about 60 miles on electric-only power.
BYD introduced its plug-in hybrid to corporate and government-agency customers in December 2008 and supplied around 100 of the vehicles in 2009.
"We hope that the government starts the subsidy policy as soon as possible then we can offer electric cars with attractive prices to Chinese car buyers," said Xu An, BYD's spokesman.
Analysts said that the car's success would depend on government subsidies due to its formidable price. BYD's gas-powered F3 model, which utilizes the same body style as the F3DM, is currently priced at between 59,800 and 89,800 yuan.
If the government does choose to subsidize the cars, retail buyers could enjoy a break of up to 50,000 to 60,000 yuan for each car, Miao Wei, vice-minister of Industry and Information Technology, said earlier this month.
A decision on the subsidy is expected to be formally announced in July.
"As Chinese consumers are very sensitive to pricing, the amount of the subsidy is key to the development of electric cars in China," said Cheng Yuan, an independent auto-industry analyst.
"If the price is too high, there won't be a market for new energy cars."
According to an online survey conducted by Chinese Internet information services portal ifeng.com last week, 68.9 percent of respondents said they will consider buying new energy vehicles and 40.8 percent said that they believed the high price will be the major obstacle to hybrid car development.
China's Chang'an Motor's plans to launch its MINI electric car in the second half of 2010, priced at 150,000 yuan.
General Motors has also said it will bring its Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle to China next year and Nissan also said recently that it will introduce its electric car, the LEAF, to China in 2011. Both of the companies have appealed for government support for electric car development in China.