Chinese electric vehicle maker, BYD, is putting its building blocks in place for the Atto 3 which will be launched in the October-December quarter.
This fully-born electric SUV built on the E3 platform is close to 4.5 metres long and already being retailed in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. It will enter Japan in January 2023 and will follow an SKD (semi knocked down) assembly route in India. The Atto 3 will join the e6 multipurpose vehicle at BYD’s plant in Sriperumbudur near Chennai.
Sanjay Gopalakrishnan, Senior Vice-President, Electric Vehicle Passenger Business, BYD, told Autocar Professional in a recent interview that sales would begin in early 2023 with the company keenly gauging market response while planning its next course of action. This is precisely what BYD has been doing with its recently launched e6 which is averaging sales of around 75 units every month.
“Customer feedback has been very positive and they see the e6 as a practical EV which offers good range, battery warranty and stability. Those who are familiar with the BYD brand as well as new buyers who have driven competitors’ vehicles have also had a good experience with the e6,” said Gopalakrishnan,
The company has been focusing on increasing its retail presence in major metros where people are queuing up for EVs. “We will expand the network gradually and the top 25 cities should be covered in a year along with charging infrastructure,” he added. The south is a big market for EVs taking up nearly 60 percent of overall sales.
“We have doctors and entrepreneurs as part of the customer base for the e6 while the fleet category is also coming in gradually. Attendance was thin in corporate houses earlier this year but now there is more demand for the e6,” said Gopalakrishnan. People are now returning to their offices in Bengaluru, Gurugram, Chennai, Hyderabad etc and this momentum will continue with the paranoia of the pandemic now nearly through.
Feedback suggests that users like the e6 for its space and ease in intercity travel especially with tourism also picking up. Fleet owners are also happy with the MPV especially those with multiple fleets and “we are hoping demand will go up to 150 units per month”. Interestingly, the Chinese brand association has hardly impacted buying sentiment with customers perceiving the product as a pure electric offering.
In BYD’s view, the more the customer drives the vehicle, the more he/she loves it. “Electric needs 2-3 days to be able to generate proper demand. We need to sell the concept well for the user to feel the difference,” said Gopalakrishhan.
The experience with the Blade Battery has also been a huge positive and this word-of-mouth is what BYD will hope continues with the Atto 3. Users of the e6 get 470 kilometres in normal city driving conditions and “that is the uniqueness of the Blade Battery” where the difference between the certified and actual range is minimal which helps enhance trust in the brand.
According to Gopalakrishnan, BYD believes that the pace of electrification will pick up rapidly in India and account for at least 25 percent of the car segment by 2030. “We are in a good place as a pure electric company and technology will keep us ahead as we grow our share in EVs. We plan to increase our India presence in a phased manner as we do overseas,” he said.
As volumes grow, there could be more localisation and the business model could expand to even ship out parts and vehicles overseas from Chennai. Globally, BYD has strategic partnerships with Toyota and Daimler and it will be interesting to see how these dynamics pan out for India as a potential sourcing hub though these are early days yet.
From BYD’s point of view, this is now a great opportunity for its EV growth story where “we are selling a concept for the market and making customers understand what electric is about”. Gopalakrishnan said it would be a different brand building experience compared to retailing ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles.
“BYD is a well known brand internationally and the key is to tell the story to customers in India from the viewpoint of technology. This is a gradual seeding effort and once people understand what is in store, they will begin adopting electric faster,” he said.
BYD is also the largest EV maker globally and has surged ahead of Tesla which, however, remains a bigger draw thanks in part to the charisma of its CEO, Elon Musk. The Chinese company will be hoping that it can pull off a success story in India with electric now being the buzzword across the auto industry.
BYD India opens its first electric car dealership in Ernakulam