SHANGHAI -- Daimler AG and China's BYD Co. will this month announce the name of their sub-brand for electric vehicles for China.
A concept of the sub-brand's first model, which will be based on the Mercedes B class, will be introduced at the Beijing auto show in April. Production of the car will begin in the second half of next year, BYD Chairman and CEO Wang Chuanfu said today.
The vehicle will cost more than BYD's own E6 electric car, which sells for 249,800 yuan ($39,600) to individuals after government subsidies.
"We designed the car to be an electric vehicle targeted specifically for the Chinese market," Wang said at a briefing in Hong Kong. "It will be more advanced than the E6, both in terms of the technology and exterior design."
The concept is based on an old-generation B class and has similar styling to the entry-premium minivan-like model. Daimler developed the car with BYD as part of the companies' joint venture called BYD Daimler New Technology Co. (BDNT).
Daimler is pushing into electric-vehicle production in China to challenge luxury leader BMW AG, while the tie-up gives Shenzhen-based BYD access to Daimler's technologies.
General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG also have announced plans to introduce so-called new-energy vehicles in China, where the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases seeks to cut smog and reduce its reliance on imported oil.
Formed in May 2010, the 600 million-yuan ($95 million) joint venture between Daimler and BYD aims to cater to demand in a market where the Boston Consulting Group Inc. forecasts electric-car sales to exceed those in the U.S. by 2020.
Buyers of energy-efficient cars in Shanghai, Shenzhen and four other Chinese cities currently qualify for a 60,000 yuan subsidy.
BYD, which is partly owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is in talks to sell its E6 to U.S. taxi companies, with some demand likely in the second half, Wang said, without providing more details.
MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a unit of Berkshire Hathaway, bought 9.9 percent of BYD in July 2009 for HK$1.8 billion ($232 million), or HK$8 apiece.
Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters, Automotive News Europe