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Mazda moves up, BYD moves in: Japanese brand's premium push creates massive opportunity for Chinese affordable electric vehicle maker - and just wait until the ute gets here | Opinion

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Could BYD find itself knocking on Mazda's door in the Australian sales charts (Image: Thanos Pappas)
Could BYD find itself knocking on Mazda's door in the Australian sales charts (Image: Thanos Pappas)

I'll admit it, I was one of those who considered the arrival of the BYD Atto 3 in Australia as something of a curiosity when it was first announced.

But now I genuinely think the brand is positioning itself to go after the mainstream space Mazda has left behind it in the latter's push into a more premium space, and that could spell trouble for brands like Mitsubishi, Honda and Subaru.

On paper, the two brands couldn't be more different. One is among the most popular and well-known marques in Australia, and a brand without a non-niche EV in its stable.

The other is a Chinese newcomer (at least to Australia), with an exclusively electric portfolio, but one which - for now - consists of only one product, the Atto 3

But with Mazda openly shifting its product portfolio upmarket – and on the cusp of launching a new series of six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines – its mass-market spot is up for grabs, and if BYD's promises come to fruition, I genuinely think it's a better chance of grabbing it than Mazda's traditional Japanese rivals.

Mazda, of course, needs no introduction. Australia's second-best-selling car brand has shifted more than 40,000 vehicles so far this year, second only to Toyota.

BYD, on the other hand, has only one product, the Atto 3, but the cut-price EV has tapped into a growing demand for electric vehicles in Australia, with more than 4500 sold already.

And yes, that's a sizeable jump between the two sales totals. But BYD is also just getting started, planning a heap of launches that will see it offer affordable electric options in some of the country's most popular vehicle segments.

The BYD Dolphin will be next to arrive, and when it does, it will wear the title of Australia's cheapest electric vehicle. Next, an electric (and possibly plug-in hybrid, too) ute, which is expected in 2024. Details are a little thin for now, but reports point to the ute delivering up to 1200kms of driving range - a number that will no doubt aim to be as high as it can, considering it will likely drop considerably should you be towing or carrying anything heavy in the tray.

Then there's the BYD Seal, or Atto 4, which has already been spotted in Australia, and is expected to launch here in early 2024. In fact, BYD importer Luke Todd says the brand will offer five models here by the end of 2024, with the fifth expected to be a larger SUV based on the same platform as the ute.

The thing is, BYD won't be so much taking down Mazda, as it will be occupying a space the Japanese brand is slow walking away from. Mazda is moving upmarket, leaving a mainstream space for BYD to occupy.

And if the all four new models prove as popular as the Atto 3, it will be BYD that holds that position, rather than any other Japanese brand.

Andrew Chesterton
Contributing Journalist
Andrew Chesterton should probably hate cars. From his hail-damaged Camira that looked like it had spent a hard life parked at the end of Tiger Woods' personal driving range, to the Nissan Pulsar Reebok that shook like it was possessed by a particularly mean-spirited demon every time he dared push past 40km/h, his personal car history isn't exactly littered with gold. But that seemingly endless procession of rust-savaged hate machines taught him something even more important; that cars are more than a collection of nuts, bolts and petrol. They're your ticket to freedom, a way to unlock incredible experiences, rolling invitations to incredible adventures. They have soul. And so, somehow, the car bug still bit. And it bit hard. When "Chesto" started his journalism career with News Ltd's Sunday and Daily Telegraph newspapers, he covered just about everything, from business to real estate, courts to crime, before settling into state political reporting at NSW Parliament House. But the automotive world's siren song soon sounded again, and he begged anyone who would listen for the opportunity to write about cars. Eventually they listened, and his career since has seen him filing car news, reviews and features for TopGear, Wheels, Motor and, of course, CarsGuide, as well as many, many others. More than a decade later, and the car bug is yet to relinquish its toothy grip. And if you ask Chesto, he thinks it never will.
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