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Chinese EV maker BYD is planning a full-frontal assault on Australia's EV market, with the brand to launch six new models by the end of 2023 – including SUVs, city cars and even a ute – with hopes it will elevate them to a top-five brand in this market.
It's a big goal. Last year, for example, Mitsubishi finished fifth in the sales race, with almost 70,000 vehicles sold. But, BYD says a combination of attractive vehicles, attractive pricing, and Australian input into design and engineering will help get them there.
The company responsible for bringing the vehicles to Australia is Nexport, and its CEO, Luke Todd, says it's much more than a simple distribution agreement.
"Given the fact we'll have six models by the end of 2023, our belief is that in that 2.5 year period there's no reason we can't be a top-five auto retailer in that period of time." he says.
"That includes the fact we'll have a pick-up or ute in that period.
"This is a true collaboration. We've invested in the BYD business in China, which gives us our own production line to produce high-volume right-hand-drive vehicles, so it's very different to a distribution agreement.
"We have our own production lines, input into design features and into the vehicles, to make sure they're at their most appealing for the Australian market."
The BYD story will begin in Australia in "October or November" when the brand unveils the new Yuan Plus SUV in Australia – a very good-looking small-to-medium SUV that sits somewhere between a Kia Seltos and a Mazda CX-5. Full deliveries are then expected to begin in the new year.
The Yuan Plus is powered by an electric motor expected to produce somewhere around 150kW and 300Nm, and Mr Todd says to expect a driving range in excess of 500km from its 60kWh battery. As far as pricing, Mr Todd says the Yuan Plus will be "around $40,000".
"Whether its right or wrong, there's been anxiety around range in Australia. Which why we have committed to any vehicle badged with BYD to deliver a 450km real-world driving, and that's to instill confidence in the transition to electric vehicles," he says.
"The Yuan Plus will be an extremely attractive vehicle, extremely well refined, with great range outcomes of 500km plus, and really in that sweet spot of being a high-riding SUV that's very attractive to a broad range of people.
"It will be around $40,000, which, for the quality of vehicle, the range outcomes, and what it offers in terms of charging speed and safety, will be key for us."
The Yuan Plus will be followed, in mid-2022, by a larger vehicle, thought to be the successor to the current Chinese-market Han –which Mr Todd describes as a "high-riding, muscle-style performance vehicle".
And hot on its heels will be the next-generation EA1 – known domestically as the Dolphin – which is a Toyota Corolla-sized city car that will deliver a 450km driving range in Australia.
Also on the cards before the end of 2023 is a Toyota HiLux-rivalling EV ute, which is still under development, and the successor to the Chinese market Tang, along with a sixth vehicle which still remains a mystery.
Critical to the BYD plans is an online sales model in Australia, with no physical dealership locations, with servicing and maintenance to be white-labelled by a yet-to-be-announced national vehicle-maintenance company, with the vehicle's on-board diagnostics to alert customers when its time for servicing or repairs.
"All of our transactions will be online. But we see our investment beyond that in engaging with our customers in more meaningful ways. Be it through ongoing communications, benefits, and effectively being part of the club. There's a whole lot of stuff we'll be announcing," Mr Todd says.
"We're in negotiations with a national well-known entity as our service partner. It's not like you buy the car and never hear form us, it's the opposite. We see our relationship continuing right through to when you want to move on from that vehicle.
"We'll have a whole range of capabilities where customers are going to be able to touch and feel the vehicles and have a test drive, and we'll announce those soon."
On the subject of servicing, Nexport is yet to detail its warranty promise, but has flagged a potential lifetime warranty on its batteries, as well as the potential to upgrade those batteries without having to upgrade the car.
"It's better than what people are going to be thinking, but it's going to be very comprehensive."