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Green Vehicles & China's Automobile Market discussed at 2010 NAIAS

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The BYD e6 is an all-electric crossover car in production by BYD Auto. BYD claims its all-electric range will reach 250 mph per charge.

by Mike Wrathell

mwrathell@yahoo.com

 

DETROIT -- What would happen if Detroit sold over a million cars and trucks a month? Ah, this is not Fantasyland, so don’t bother putting on your 3-D glasses.

I am talking about China. In 2009, 13.7 million new cars and trucks were sold there. Ten million were sold here, many of them not American or made in America by Toyota, Honda, and other foreign companies, like Mitsubishi, who bombed shut the entrance to a gold mine in the waning days of WWII, dooming hundreds of American, British, and Australian POWs to hide evidence of their violation of the Geneva Convention.

China was on our side in WW2, and they still are. If they weren’t, they would demand all the money they loaned us back and we’d be cooking Rover for dinner.

In 2020, there will be 300 million cars and trucks in China. Our current population is estimated at 307 million in the USA.

There are a lot of car companies in China, but the three biggest ones are Chery, SAIC, and BYD Auto. Warren Buffett bought into BYD and their stock went up like Balloon Boy. He also owns Geico. Well, his company Berkshire Hathaway does. They also own some of Wal-Mart, which, as you know, seems to sell only stuff made in China.

But, speaking of BYD, short for “Build Your Dreams,” they plan to launch their pure electric car, the e6, later this year right here in the USA. It seats five and goes 300 kilometers on a single charge. It takes ten minutes for a half charge, and an hour for a full charge.

BYD is a global battery-making leader. It is the #2 cellphone battery maker in the world. They are based in Shenzhen, just north of Hong Kong, in a small village turned into a city of over 8 million in the blink of an eye. Another million will be added before you can say “Dalai Lama.

BYD also makes an electric bus called the e-bus. It’s motor is in the wheels. Move over VW. Welcome to “Chinese engineering!

Paul Lin, Global Marketing Manager of BYD Auto, addressed the media and a slew of automotive industry folks at China Business Update and China Automotive Review’s third annual half-day seminar at the Detroit Auto Show, fashionably dubbed the North American International Auto Show, for fear of scaring the bejesus out of people who only hear about the murders, carjackings and gangs roaming wild in the streets of Motown. Whatever gave them that idea? They must watch the news or something….

Whatever!

Mr. Lin seemed very thoughtful and conscientious and is part of probably the greatest and greenest auto company in the world, striving hard to bring electric vehicles to the global marketplace. “We need pure electric vehicles as part of a systematic solution…..we have to do that,” he cautioned, noting the environmental impact of the combustible engine.

BYD even has portable charging stations that can be airlifted by helicopter into areas affected by earthquakes. How cool is that? I asked him if he could send one on a ship through the Panama Canal to Haiti, but his English not so good.

A nationwide network of battery-charging stations is necessary in both China and America for pure electric cars to be a viable alternative to fossil fuel-burning engines. BYD is on that big time and with Warren Buffett on board, stockholders are confident that it will happen this year.

Wayne Xing, the Editor/Publisher of CBU/CAR, in response to me asking if the e6 and Chevrolet Volt would be able to charge at each others’ charging stations said that when Presidents Obama and Hu met in Beijing in 2009, the two leaders discussed standardization. I sure hope so, especially early on in the history of electric cars when I suspect finding a charging station with an open space for your car will be at a premium.

The cost of making a car in China goes down every year. China has got it going on. The demand for cars is so high in China that it takes 3 to 4 months to get your car after you order it. Because Chinese cars are selling like hot cakes domestically, many Chinese automakers are not motivated to try their hand at the export business, despite encouragement from the Chinese government. Plus, they know America is a land of lawyers, lawsuits, and lemon laws.

However, BYD is ready to buck the trend and take the plunge into the American melting pot. SAIC has teamed up with GM to make cars in India as GM-SAIC Motor India. Geely is expected to finalize its acquisition of Volvo from Ford this year. Beijing Automotive, a state-run automaker, bought a big chunk of Saab, a Swedish auto company. And Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company Ltd. is wrapping up its purchase of Hummer from GM. Seems like everyone wants a Hummer, if they just weren’t so hard to park.

Studies have shown that 10 percent of the American public would consider buying an electric car. Thirty-four percent would willingly help pay for local charging stations. With a range far exceeding most people’s usual daily mileage, electric cars last big problem is how quiet they are, but engineers are working on ways to create artificial noise to alert pedestrians and silly squirrels. Maybe if drivers used their horns more than they text that would help, too, huh? And slow down when you see animals by the road, please!

VW is the largest foreign automaker in China. GM, Ford, and Chrysler are all there, too. Foreign luxury cars do quite well in China as the middle class expands. Like Australia, the global economic crisis did not hit China as hard as it hit here and in Europe. Canada got hit pretty hard, too.

Some say China is due for a “correction” as some people there have been overstating the numbers. We shall have to wait and see. Surely, some Chinese automakers like Brilliance have faltered. They lost a lot of key players to rival companies since the 2009 NAIAS.

Dr. Cai Haimian, President of Henglong Steering USA and Director of China Automotive Systems, a Chinese company specializing in power steering systems, said it best, “You can’t think about five years from now, if you don’t survive today.” China is a survivor, though. They have been around a lot longer than America, and we could learn a thing or two from them. Have we ever fought off the Mongols?

If Chinese automakers continue to partner with America and Americans like Warren Buffett, there are bright days ahead for both of us. Like the Yin and Yang, if the East and West can work together harmoniously on business, cultural, economic, environmental, human rights, religious, and security issues, hopefully we can overlook our political and philosophical differences and live in peace and prosperity, while kicking jihadist butt, of course!

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Charging station for BYD's electric vehicles

 

 

 

This page was last updated on Mon, January 25, 2010 2:40 AM

 

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