Daimler AG announced on Thursday a joint venture with BYD, the Chinese automobile and battery manufacturer, to build a research and technology center to develop electric cars in BYD’s home city of Shenzhen. The Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology Company, as the company will be called, will seek to strengthen each brand’s position in China’s electric-vehicle market.
In March, the two automakers signed a memorandum of understanding to build electric cars in China. At the time, Henry Li, BYD’s international sales manager, said a proposed jointly developed electric car would be positioned above the e6, the four-door E.V. that BYD displayed at the Detroit auto show in January.
BYD, which is backed by the billionaire Warren E. Buffett, is one of the world’s largest battery producers for mobile phones, supplying Nokia, Samsung and Motorola. It recently topped Businessweek magazine’s Tech 100 list, outranking stalwarts like Apple and Amazon. Its automotive division nearly doubled 2008 sales last year, moving a relatively modest 450,000 vehicles. However, the company’s chairman, Wang Chuanfu, intends to preside over the world’s biggest automaker by 2025.
Taxi contractors in Shenzhen began taking delivery of the BYD e6 in recent weeks, demonstrating the company’s capacity to put electrics on the road. Charge-point infrastructure, however, does not yet exist to support the e6.
In the United States, BYD has been a scrappy if somewhat curious presence at the Detroit auto show since 2008, showcasing vehicles with questionable fit and finish and whose styling cribbed unabashedly from other brands, particularly Toyota. Working with Daimler, BYD aims to develop not only more robust vehicle architecture but also, potentially, a unique design language for the venture’s forthcoming E.V.’s.
Unrelated to the BYD partnership, Daimler plans on introducing its Mercedes-Benz B-Class Fuel Cell and A-Class electric car to European markets late this year.
This spring, BYD announced plans to establish its North American corporate headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, from which the brand will orchestrate its introduction to American car buyers.