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Is BYD planning another ute? Double trouble for Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux, GWM Cannon Alpha, Kia Tasman, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton

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BYD's first ute will be out soon... and the second?
BYD's first ute will be out soon... and the second?

The BYD Shark ute, which is expected to be released here by the end of this year, may not be the only dual-cab pick-up the company is preparing.

BYD international management made a flying visit earlier this year to assess Australian market conditions – perhaps with prototype utes in tow – and it seems more than one type may come as the brand continues it plan to muscle in on the Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux, Nissan Navara, GWM Cannon Alpha and others.

Speaking to CarsGuide at the unveiling of the Sealion 6 range at the ex-Holden proving ground at Lang Lang near Melbourne, BYD importer to Australia, EV Direct CEO David Smitherman, made no bones about playing in the segments that are most popular in this country.

“Throughout the rest of this year, we're very focused on delivering a ute,” he said.

“At the start of April, the chairman – who is the founder and owner of BYD – came to Australia with 19 of his executives, his full executive team, and his first time ever to Australia.

“It was a really good fact-finding mission for them… they went to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne – and while we showed them our business, our dealers, the competitive set, they were able to see what the market is in Australia.

“And the great thing from that is they saw SUVs and utes. And we were able to share with them the importance of those two (types of vehicles) for the brand.

"So, they obviously have ambitions to grow rapidly, and my comment was for us is that we need a great ute – and a number of utes actually – and a significant number of SUVs, and that’s what we are going to get.

“It starts today with (the Sealion 6), and we will see significant product rollout, and I guess more to come on the actual ute so far as timing and so far as spec, and I can assure you that is important for the business.”

This BYD ute should be in Oz by 2025. (Image: CarNewsChina)
This BYD ute should be in Oz by 2025. (Image: CarNewsChina)

Whether the second ute in question would slot below or above the imminent Shark Plug-in Hybrid Ute is unknown, though the success of the full-sized Ram 1500 points to BYD going big. Then again, with Ford Maverick sales in America far-exceeding forecasts, the Chinese brand might go for a smaller – and perhaps even car-based – electrified urban dual-cab contender.

Back to the present, asked if the newly-unveiled BYD Shark will arrive in 2024, Smitherman replied with “I hope so!”. He said the type of market innovation demonstrated in other models like the Atto 3 will also apply to the dual-cab pick-up.

“The good thing is, we’re not boring,” he said. “As a brand, we want to be exciting and interesting, and that’s what you are going to get. It’s not lost on me that if we want to grow the business, we want to be in every segment, and that’s what the ambition is.”

Is BYD planning a baby Shark ute to rival Ford's Maverick?
Is BYD planning a baby Shark ute to rival Ford's Maverick?

Unveiled in Mexico on May 14, the Shark ute will include a 320kW/650Nm example of the 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol and electric-motor plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) powertrain combination dubbed DMi (for Dual Motor intelligence).

While the CEO declined to divulge any Australian-market specific details, he did hint strongly that a variation of this hybrid powertrain as found in the Sealion 6 will likely make the grade for us.

“It might,” he revealed. “We’re still finalising this DMi technology will be in a number of models, and of course you’ve got the range (benefit), and that’s the attractive nature of this… to overcome range-anxiety issues.”

A full-sized BYD ute as per the Ram 1500 may be in the pipeline.
A full-sized BYD ute as per the Ram 1500 may be in the pipeline.

With the market about to be shaken up by the GWM Cannon Alpha as Australia’s first hybrid dual-cab offering, and to be followed by the next-generation Navara, HiLux, Tasman and Ranger PHEV by the end of 2025, the ute market is about to enter a state of flux.

It's worth noting that the BYD Shark in its top tune as revealed with a 2500kg towing capacity trails the medium ute segment leaders by 1000kg – though, of course, it can manage around 100km of pure-EV range and over 800km of combined range (NEDC, not WLTP figures) while also being capable of hitting 100km/h in 5.7 seconds (not at the same time, obviously).

Is this the start of a new era of ute in Australia?

Stay tuned, as more information about these, and other future BYD models, come to light.

Byron Mathioudakis
Contributing Journalist
Byron started his motoring journalism career when he joined John Mellor in 1997 before becoming a freelance motoring writer two years later. He wrote for several motoring publications and was ABC Youth radio Triple J's "all things automotive" correspondent from 2001 to 2003. He rejoined John Mellor in early 2003 and has been with GoAutoMedia as a senior product and industry journalist ever since. With an eye for detail and a vast knowledge base of both new and used cars Byron lives and breathes motoring. His encyclopedic knowledge of cars was acquired from childhood by reading just about every issue of every car magazine ever to hit a newsstand in Australia. The child Byron was the consummate car spotter, devoured and collected anything written about cars that he could lay his hands on and by nine had driven more imaginary miles at the wheel of the family Ford Falcon in the driveway at home than many people drive in a lifetime. The teenage Byron filled in the agonising years leading up to getting his driver's license by reading the words of the leading motoring editors of the country and learning what they look for in a car and how to write it. In short, Byron loves cars and knows pretty much all there is to know about every vehicle released during his lifetime as well as most of the ones that were around before then.
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