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Will Warren Buffett-backed BYD’s entry into India’s EV segment threaten Tata Motors’ pole position?

Will Warren Buffett-backed BYD’s entry into India’s EV segment threaten Tata Motors’ pole position?

As BYD dethrones Tesla as the world’s largest EV maker, the Shenzen-based company is now aggressively eyeing newer foreign markets, including India.  

Warren Buffet has invested in BYD Warren Buffet has invested in BYD

Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway-backed Chinese electric vehicle (EV) firm BYD (Build Your Dreams) is all set to dream big after dethroning Tesla as the world’s largest EV maker. Between April-June, BYD shipped 3.54 lakh EV units—a growth of 266 per cent year-on-year—as compared to Tesla’s global sales of 2.54 lakh units that grew by 27 per cent in comparison. The Shenzen-based company is now aggressively eyeing newer foreign markets, including India.

The company’s recent announcements for the Indian market, thus, can be termed well-timed. It has put in place a plan to launch a mid-size electric SUV, the Atto 3 SUV on October 11 which will be its first mass-market vehicle in India. BYD started selling its electric MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) e6 meant for corporate and fleet customers in November 2021 but this marks its full-fledged foray into the electric PV (passenger vehicle) segment. The Atto3 will be assembled at BYD’s plant near Chennai which has an installed capacity of 10,000 units per annum. Expected to be launched at a price of Rs 25 lakh to Rs 30 lakh, the model will take on Tata Nexon EV Max.

India’s passenger vehicle (PV) space is heating up.  Tigor and Nexon EV maker Tata Motors holds 85 per cent share of the EV car market in FY22 followed by China’s SAIC-owned British brand MG Motors at 11.5 per cent with its ZS EV. Homegrown automaker Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M), too, recently announced its foray into the EV segment with five new eSUVs and their new platform, Inglo. Other carmakers including Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen, etc. have also announced new EV launches. While the EV segment in India is still nascent, it has seen steady growth over last few years. According to the Federation of Automobile Dealers Association, out of the 2.72 million passenger vehicles retailed in India in FY22, EVs constituted just 17,802 units or 0.65 per cent reporting a jump of almost 257 per cent.

“BYD India will initially sell top-of-the-line premium EVs. By 2030, we are aiming at a 40 per cent e-PV market share. India is among a handful of countries that support the global EV30@30 campaign, which aims to have at least 30 per cent of new vehicle sales be electric by 2030. BYD’s entry is a sign of the growing interest of global carmakers to gain a foothold in India’s EV market,” said Sanjay Gopalakrishnan, Senior VP, Electric Passenger Vehicle Business, BYD India.

The company aims to sell 10,000 electric vehicles over the next two years. The BYD e6 has managed to sell 450 units so far, and BYD is hopeful to sell 1,000 units by the end of 2022. Experts say that in every market, the initial 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent EV adoption takes time after which EV adoption picks up at a much faster pace. BYD now has dealerships in 12 cities and is in the process of expanding to 16-17 cities with 23-24 showrooms by the end of 2022.

Following its recent dealership launch in New Delhi, Gopalakrishnan, said, “New Delhi has immense potential for premium passenger vehicles, and additional 18,000 charging stations are planned to be installed across the city by 2024.” “The goal is to have one station for every 15 electric vehicles inside the city. This is a major boost for the EV industry and we strongly believe that BYD will be the main contributor to EV adoption in the EPV segments,” he adds.

From a global perspective, however, recession in the US economy and weaker Chinese consumption has led Warren Buffett to cut his holding in BYD’s Hong Kong-listed shares to 19.92 per cent from 20.04 per cent on August 24. The move triggered the biggest fall in BYD stock in nearly two years.

Closer to home, the company has invested $150 million in two plants in India which it sees as a strategic hub in south Asia. The Indian government is targeting 30 per cent EV penetration for the PV segment by 2030 with an aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. Experts say that BYD’s aggressive expansion plans will help the company battle global challenges while acting as a tough competitor to established EV players like Tata Motors and MG Motor.

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