Canadian Manufacturing

Chinese automaker BYD to open electric bus plant in Mojave desert

The firm opened its North American headquarters in Los Angeles in 2010

LOS ANGELES—A Chinese company whose mantra is Build Your Dreams plans to build all-electric buses in California’s Mojave Desert.

Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris and officials of BYD Automotive scheduled a news conference Wednesday to announce plans to open the first Chinese-owned vehicle manufacturing plant in the United States in the wind-swept high-desert city 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

BYD, which opened its North American headquarters in Los Angeles in 2010, says the plant will initially turn out 10 electric buses for the city of Long Beach. It expects the vehicles, with a range of 150 miles between charges, to be delivered next year.

One of the world’s largest manufacturers of rechargeable batteries, BYD got into the automobile business 10 years ago. It has been looking to expand into the U.S. market for some time.

Although China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest auto market, Chinese manufacturers have seen domestic sales inhibited by the popularity of cars from the U.S. and Japan and are looking to expand elsewhere.

“It’s well known that Chinese manufacturers have been eyeing the North American market for years,” said U.S. auto industry analyst Michael Robinet, managing director of IHS Automotive of Northville, Mich.

“It’s probably the most important market from their perspective,” he added.

But it’s not an easy one to crack, he said, thanks to the need to establish a dealership network, fluctuations in international currency and the volatility and competitiveness of the market itself. So it makes sense, Robinet added, that to try to gain a foothold here BYD would be looking at building its vehicles on American soil as a means of controlling price and quality.

At one point BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, had hoped to introduce its e6 model electric passenger cars to the U.S. by 2010. It has since pushed those plans back.

Since it was founded with 20 employees in 1995, the company has grown to employ 150,000 people across China and in offices in Europe, Japan, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere. Among its investors is U.S. billionaire

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