China's BYD has built up an impressive production network in Europe that has largely gone unnoticed in the passenger car world. That's because its new plant in Hungary, its planned plant in France and its joint venture operations in the UK all produce electric buses.
Those buses, by the way, are already transporting passengers in cities such as Turin, London and Liverpool.
The latest indication of BYD's growing ambitions for Europe is its announcement Dec. 9 that it would build a factory in Morocco to produce battery-powered passenger cars, buses and trucks.
It's not clear yet which of the three BYD will start with in Morocco, but the automaker, which is backed by U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett, said its products will be for the local market and export.
BYD, which has sold hundreds of thousands of electric passenger cars in its home market, said in 2012 it was interested in launching its e6 EV in Europe. The zero-emissions sedan hasn't debuted yet, but Europe wasn't even close to ready to accept battery-powered transportation five years ago.
How things have changed. BYD's leaders know that European governments are fed up with the choking emissions from today's vehicles. It has used the backlash against fuel-powered transportation to win bid after bid in Europe for its e-buses. France and the UK have already announced plans to phase out vehicles that use fossil fuels by 2040.
BYD must see this building momentum for EVs as an opportunity to gain a foothold in Europe. Especially if it can leverage low-cost production and manageable logistics from Morocco to offer affordable EVs to customers in Europe.