SHANGHAI (Bloomberg) -- Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche said the German automaker and China's BYD Co. have “made good progress” on developing an electric car and have specifications for the model in place.
The two automakers, which formed a partnership in May, will soon decide on the design of the car, Zetsche said, speaking at a forum in Shanghai on Saturday.
“The car we want to develop together has now been defined in the so-called spec book, so we know the specific details this car should fulfill,” Zetsche said. “The shape and form of the car are soon to be defined and those are the prerequisites for starting development itself and its execution.”
The model will be introduced as early as 2012, Zetsche said in an interview with Bloomberg News on Oct. 22.
Daimler is pushing into electric-vehicle production in China, the world's largest auto market, to challenge rivals Audi and BMW AG. Its tie-up with BYD, agreed in May, may give Shenzhen-based BYD access to Daimler's technologies.
BYD, which has an advantage in battery technology, is “complementary and a good partner” for Daimler, Zetsche said. Daimler and BYD have said they will invest 600 million yuan ($90 million) in the 50-50 partnership.
Zetsche said that he expects 1 percent to 5 percent of all new-vehicle sales will be electric in 2020.
Daimler's electric-vehicle strategy includes large-scale production of a battery-powered version of its Smart minicar, starting in 2012. The company began assembling about 1,000 electric versions of the urban two-seater in November 2009. Daimler also plans to build more than 500 electric-powered Mercedes-Benz A-Class cars this year.
China set to become 30M-unit market
Zetsche said China's auto sales may reach 20 million to 30 million units by 2020, citing analyst forecasts. That would far outpace other markets, he said.
“The auto market may be a mature industry but also very much a growth industry,” Zetsche said. “The global market is expected to grow by another 50 million in five years. Growth is accelerating compared to the past.”
Automakers are forming partnerships to work on fuel-efficient vehicles as governments in the U.S., Japan and Europe push manufacturers to cut oil consumption and carbon emissions tied to global warming.
Daimler, the world's second-biggest luxury carmaker after BMW, also formed a partnership earlier this year with Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA to share platforms and engines and possibly cooperate on electric-car parts
Nissan and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has set the goal of expanding global production of its Leaf model to as many as 500,000 vehicles by the end of 2012. General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and other rivals are preparing their own rechargeable models.