China’s BYD unveiled its first dealership in Japan on Tuesday, taking on one of the biggest challenges in its explosive global rise as it seeks to win over customers deeply loyal to their own auto industry.
BYD, an acronym which stands for Build Your Dreams, has ambitious plans to open more than 100 dealerships in Japan by the end of 2025.
But it faces a tough task in a country where petrol and hybrid models are much more popular than battery electric vehicle (BEVs) and nine in 10 cars sold annually are built by domestic firms such as Toyota Motor Corp.
“If customers trust us and give BYD a try, we’ll have a good chance (at succeeding),” BYD Auto Japan Inc President Atsuki Tofukuji told Reuters at a media event to mark the opening of its maiden outlet in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city.
At the store, BYD is showcasing its ATTO 3 electric sports utility vehicle which has a cruising distance of 485 kilometres (301 miles) and costs 4.4 million yen ($33,744).
BYD was the world’s biggest seller of BEVs and plug-in hybrids in 2022 with a total of 1.86 million vehicles – most of those in China and well ahead of Tesla with 1.3 million.
About 30 people have contacted the Yokohama dealership to enquire about the new cars, according to Kazuhisa Okamoto, who runs the store.
But convincing the broader population could be an uphill battle.
“There’s no mistake that I’ll buy a domestically made car if I ever buy an EV,” said Kazumasa Hanegi, a transportation firm worker in his fifties who was walking his dog near BYD’s new dealership and who owns a hybrid vehicle.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara