BYD, already Australia’s second-biggest seller of electric cars, is about to benefit from a greatly expanded retail footprint as its rollout of new sedans, hatches, SUVs and utes gains pace.
Australian publicly listed car dealer giant Eagers Automotive Ltd announced today that it had plowed an additional $70 million into a retail joint-venture to sell BYDs both online and in stores.
The investment – $50m cash and $20m in Eagers ASX stock – was in return for a further 31 per cent stake in the existing Australian BYD retail joint-venture with a company called EVDirect.com, which still serves as sole licensed distributor for the BYD brand here.
Eagers’ share in EV Dealer Group Pty Ltd retail joint-venture now sits at 80 per cent, leaving EVDirect.com with the remaining 20 per cent. Previously Eagers owned 49 per cent, making it the new senior partner on the retail side of the operation.
“The increased ownership interest strengthens Eagers Automotive’s position as the exclusive retail partner for BYD and EVDirect.com in the Australian market and further demonstrates Eagers Automotive’s unique positioning as a leader in the once in a generation transition to new energy and low emission vehicles,” the company said in an investor notice.
For its part EVDirect.com was bullish about what selling a chunk of its stake in the retail venture could mean for the rapidly growing BYD brand, whose Atto 3 is the top-selling EV in Australia already that doesn’t wear a Tesla badge.
Company management said the development would unlock “additional capital” to grow its distribution operation. EVDirect.com has long claimed its relationship with BYD extends to dedicated right-hand drive lines and engineering input into key incoming products like the 2024 electric dual-cab ute.
“With four more BYD models slated for release and delivery in Australia by the end of 2024, the BYD brand will continue its exponential growth. Our company will continue investing in streamlined supply chain processes and product development of BYD vehicle models for the Australian market,” said EVDirect CEO Luke Todd.
One part of this master plan is to establish new BYD Service and Fulfilment Centres, starting with a site in Mascot near Sydney airport from August 2023, designed to prepare vehicles off ships for customers at scale. The first site will be able to handle 100 cars per day, EVDirect.com claims.
Meanwhile the Eagers and EVDirect.com retail venture will open two new ‘BYD Megastore’ sites in Sydney (Alexandria) and Brisbane in September/October of 2023, with more to come. These sites will support smaller brand stores in a hub-and-spoke type model.
“The BYD Megastore concept heralds a new era of automotive retail, providing customers with an immersive and educational experience into the BYD brand and product range,” EVDirect.com claims.
“As electric vehicle demand is now moving to mainstream for Australian consumers, we are introducing a world first in automotive retailing and will make it easier for consumers to transition to cleaner and more economical transport options.”
These megastores will sell BYD vehicles but are also designed to help those unfamiliar with EVs get answers to the myriad questions they have in regards to living with them, Mr Todd told us today.
It’s been a huge few weeks for BYD’s Australian importer. Last week it announced its second model, the BYD Dolphin small hatch, would become Australia’s cheapest new EV at $38,890 before on-road costs – $100 less than Chinese rival, the MG 4.
Earlier in June it also sent an additional 750 BYD Atto 3s to Victoria to capitalise on the demise of that State’s $3000 EV rebate on June 30.
As we exclusively reported in June, BYD pivoted to drive finished Atto 3s from the factory line straight into sealed shipping containers, thereby avoiding having its cars sitting around in holding yards and picking up bugs and seeds, like so many other vehicles that are stuck in quarantine hell instead of customer driveways.
“We don’t have shortages of batteries, we don’t have shortages of chips,” said chief operating officer of EVDirect Mark Harland, citing BYD’s vertical integration as a company that makes its own batteries and its own semiconductors.
BYD’s masterplan is to achieve 50,000 annual sales here over the next few years, supported by an expansion of its EV line-up – including sports sedans like the BYD Seal and an electric ute, which we’ve already captured deep in testing.
This would equate to about five per cent market share which, based on 2022’s sales figures, would place BYD well inside the top 10 brands list alongside fellow Chinese carmaker MG (49,582), and ahead of marques such as Subaru, Volkswagen and Nissan.
“We don’t necessarily look at Tesla as our direct competitor, though from an EV point of view they’ve set the benchmark,” Mr Harland added. “We look at BYD as a mainstream competitor to Toyota, Kia, and other cars. We want BYD to be on those buyers’ shopping lists.”
Mr Harland, a long-time executive at General Motors in Shanghai and for Holden, said the pace at which BYD moves was something he’d never seen “in my 25+ years in the automotive industry”.
While we are inclined to take such bold sales aspirations with a pinch of salt – EVDirect is no stranger to making huge claims – the company is inarguably putting runs on the board in the Australian market, lending a degree of credence.
BYD’s first vehicle sold at proper scale in Australia was the Atto 3 SUV, which has racked up 4664 deliveries this year for 14.5 per cent EV market share. It even outsold the Tesla Model 3 in May.
“Plans are, fingers crossed, that we have Seal in the country before end of the calendar year,” Mr Harland told us. “I’d like to have some on the ground, it’s just a matter going through compliance and ADR and ticking all the boxes.”
New player EVDirect learned the hard way to make sure it meets all the requisite Australian Design Rules, with the red tape leaving it red-faced after hitting snags with the Atto 3’s child-seat attachments shortly after market launch.
Beyond this the brand has a growing range of EVs in other segments to select from, with cars like the older-design BYD Tang large SUV due to enter a new generation soon, and the BYD Han large sedan poised for an update.
The other major addition to the BYD range, and the clear key to its vast volume aspirations, is the planned launch of an electric and plug-in hybrid dual-cab ute range – developed with Australia (and therefore RHD) in mind from early in the program.
“No commitments on the pickup ute, but let’s just say that its definitely on the roadmap. And BYD moves quickly,” said Mr Harland.
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