Group aims to take on established rivals Mercedes and BMW
China’s largest electric car maker BYD on Thursday unveiled the first models from its new luxury brand as it aims to take on established groups such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW at the premium end of the market.
The Warren Buffett-backed group is hoping its Yangwang U8 sport utility vehicle and the U9 sports car will give it an extra edge as it steps up efforts to become a global carmaker.
The company, which no longer produces combustion engine models, is one of several Chinese carmakers preparing to use electric cars to break into overseas markets.
Europe, which is the largest market for battery models outside of China, is one of its main targets and home to some of the world’s leading premium carmakers such as Mercedes, BMW and Audi.
BYD founder Wang Chuanfu said the new Yangwang brand “will reshape the contours of the global luxury car market”, boasting new in-house technology developed over two decades.
The move comes as competition in the global car market increases with the switch to electric vehicles prompting the launch of newer brands, from pioneer Tesla to dozens of start-ups, many from China.
The Shenzhen-based carmaker, the best-selling electric vehicle brand last year with a record 1.86mn cars, claims the U9 sports car can go from nought to 62mph (100kmh) in just two seconds and the U8 SUV in three seconds.
The two models are both priced at more than Rmb1mn ($145,500), although the company did not reveal exact figures.
Features of both cars include the ability to float on water, to spin around in a circle on wheels that are individually powered by an electric motor, and to make a smooth stop in the event of a tyre blowing out.
The company, which produces plug-in hybrids, pure battery and hydrogen-powered models with the aim of selling 4mn vehicles in 2023, had achieved a “complete revolution” in the way cars are powered, Wang said at a press event.
“Our cars will not skid, drift or roll over,” he added, with more cutting-edge technologies to be used in future Yangwang models.
The ability to turn on the spot like a tank has been tested by other brands but has yet to be launched on a saleable model.
Luxury brands including Mercedes and BMW are also developing electric models with wheels that are individually powered, while General Motors has introduced a feature on its electric Hummer pick-up truck that allows it to “crab-walk” sideways.
Rivian, a US start-up, delayed the “Tank Turn” mode for its R1T model in late 2021 for safety reasons.