BYD India makes renewed push for volumes in 2024, expands product line up

Sanjay Gopalakrishnan, senior vice-president of electric passenger vehicle business at BYD India, at the launch of performance electric sedan SEAL on Tuesday.
Sanjay Gopalakrishnan, senior vice-president of electric passenger vehicle business at BYD India, at the launch of performance electric sedan SEAL on Tuesday.

Summary

  • The EV maker launched its performance electric sedan SEAL in India at a starting price of 41 lakh

New Delhi: China's BYD, the world's largest EV maker in terms of sales, is looking to reignite its India aspirations by increasing its imports into the country and expand its product portfolio after a series of setbacks led it to miss its sales targets in 2023. The New Energy Vehicle (NEV) maker launched its performance electric sedan SEAL in India on Tuesday at a starting price of 41 lakh, going up to 53 lakh ex-showroom for an all-wheel drive variant. The Seal has a range of up to 650 km for its top-end rear-wheel drive model.

Sanjay Gopalakrishnan, senior vice president of electric passenger vehicle business at BYD India, told Mint that the company is expecting to receive homologation certification for its Atto 3, a five-seater electric sport utility vehicle (SUV), which will enable it to import and sell more units of the model in the country. Homologation is a process which certifies a product meets Indian regulatory standards necessary to facilitate the import and sale of the vehicle in India. Without homologation, a carmaker can only import up to 2,500 units of a model.

The fact that BYD hasn't been able to clear this key step so far and has also been unable to formalize a contract manufacturing arrangement it was seeking amid tightened foreign investment rules for countries sharing a land border with India, threw a spanner in the works for the company, and kept it from its 15,000 annual sales target last year. However, Gopalakrishnan points out the company has a significant lead in the 30 lakh and above segment of EVs, outselling South Korean OEMs Kia and Hyundai which offer products like the Ioniq 5 and EV6, as well as luxury carmakers like Volvo Cars India, BMW and Mercedes Benz.

“The Seal will add to our leadership of that category, so we want to maintain a premiumness in our portfolio and at the same time build the brand because the SEAL is a global product, normally known as a Tesla Model 3 competitor that will attract a lot of eyeballs in the showroom," he said. Indian consumers have been asking about the Seal since they saw it at the Auto Expo. So now they are actually going to witness it and use it. That's what BYD hopes will create a brand aura around its products, he said. BYD's EVs, which are powered by their blade battery technology, are considered superior in terms of performance and safety globally.

The Warren Buffett-backed company is bringing passenger vehicles to India through the imports route, unlike Tesla, which has been lobbying the government for an import duty cut to start local operations. BYD's own plans are contingent upon it securing a local partner or investment approvals to kickstart domestic assembly at scale, like new EV entrant VinFast, which is already setting up an integrated factory in Tamil Nadu.

Gopalakrishnan is not perturbed by impending domestic competition, which is also gearing up to launch premium EVs in the second half of the year.

“We have technology which is ahead of others. So we are not worried about that (domestic competition) in terms of the product, at least in our product features and the added practical range it gives actually to the customer," Gopalakrishnan said.

BYD shipped 2,038 vehicles in 2023, with two models, e6 and Atto 3, on sale in the country.

The company had earlier spoken about its target to reach 40% of India's EV market by 2030, while it refrained from sharing a market share target now, the company says it will still aspire to attain that market share for EVs in India over the "long term". To be sure, BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams and is the world’s largest EV maker, already has a technology partnership with homegrown electric bus maker Olectra Greentech, a subsidiary of Megha Engineering & Infrastructures. While BYD supplies the tech, Olectra manufactures the buses under its own badge at its Hyderabad factory.

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