BYD bolsters Japan push with EV lineup, dealership network

By BLOOMBERG | 3 March 2024


TOKYO: BYD Co. will introduce a series of new models and expand its dealership network in Japan, where the Chinese electric vehicle giant has struggled to infiltrate a developed market saturated by hybrids and domestic brands.

A luxury sedan will be rolled out later this year, followed by new models in 2025 and 2026, the company said Friday.

Despite overtaking Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. last year as the world’s best-selling EV maker, BYD has yet to find a foothold in Japan.

It sold less than 1,500 passenger cars in 2023 in the market, which is dominated by hybrids made by legacy brands like Toyota Motor Corp. that have seen a bump in popularity as EV demand slumps.

BYD, which operates in 51 locations across Japan, including 22 dealerships, aims to reach 100 by the end of 2025.

A revamped version of its popular Atto 3 electric SUV went on sale Friday for ¥4.5 million (RM143,000), with a maximum range of 470km.

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A previous version was rolled out for the Japanese market in January 2023 and was followed by the Dolphin, a compact EV, in September.

A perceived resistance in Japan to battery EVs and foreign brands is seen as a major barrier for BYD.

Toyota, the world’s top carmaker that has long been criticized for dragging its feet in the shift to EVs, manufactured and sold a record number of vehicles in 2023.

However, pushing into Japan - the world’s third-largest auto market - gives BYD an opportunity as Chinese carmakers face heavy competition and increasing hostility in Europe and the US.

"When we first arrived in Japan, only people in the know had heard of our company,” BYD Auto Japan president Atsuki Tofukuji told reporters here.

"But we’re expanding our footprint here one step at a time.”

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