China’s BYD is under attack over a recall that was issued over a fire risk in some of its electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
Customers say the replacement goes beyond what was specified in the recall, raising questions about the company’s transparency.
Two BYD customers said they and others questioned why BYD had instructed dealers to replace batteries in their cars which were not subject to the recall. Though compensated, the customers said they wanted BYD to be more transparent.
The Shenzhen-based carmaker did not respond to requests for comment.
BYD has been a major beneficiary in the automotive industry’s rapid shift toward electrification, propelled by the backing of US billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
The three-decade-old firm has seen sales more than quadruple so far in 2022, largely shrugging off a slump brought by China’s Covid-19 containment measures.
A maker of both electric cars and buses, BYD also builds EV batteries, which it has portrayed as the industry’s safest, and which it is close to supplying to US EV peer Tesla, BYD’s executive vice president has said.
It is this success that supporters fear could be undermined by public relations missteps.
Emissions ‘Causing Nosebleeds’
BYD’s image has already taken a hit this year when its factory emissions were blamed for causing nosebleeds among local children. BYD said it complied with emissions rules and called the nosebleed allegations malicious.
“As an icon of the Chinese EV sector, BYD is failing us,” one of the complainants, named Wu, said. “It should be more transparent and honest facing such problems.”
The complaints centre on the Tang DM-i plug-in hybrid sport utility vehicle (SUV) launched in April 2021 and priced at about 200,000 yuan ($30,000).
The Tang DM is BYD’s best-selling premium series with September-May sales exceeding 60,000 vehicles.
In April 2022, the State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR) announced a recall of 9,663 Tang DM-i cars saying a defect in the EV batteries pack could cause fires.
Three Tang DM-i owners said their cars were not on the recall list but that dealers in June had called them in to replace their batteries. Two said they were told the swap was due to quality issues and that the dealers would not elaborate.
The third said the dealer, when pressed, revealed the swap was on BYD’s instruction and was due to the April recall. A bill seen by Reuters showed all charges covered by the manufacturer.
The customers said they want an investigation into what they called a “secret recall” of EV batteries for fear of any damage to one of China’s best-known international brands.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell