BYD is not a young company, it is very young. It was born in 1995, but it has only been producing cars in China for twenty years and today it is the best-selling brand there. Nine months after its start in Spain, Jordi Cuesta, head of BYD Iberia, gives us an assessment.
He could speak Chinese in privacy – “in privacy, just enough, but survive, yes I could survive” – after almost ten years working in China for the Volkswagen Group. Currently, Jordi Cuesta, someone who “quite goes around the world”, is responsible of BYD for Spain and Portugal.
What is BYD?
BYD, above all, is a technology company. It started as the dream of its founder, who continues to be our CEO, manufacturing batteries for electronics. From there it moved on to applications for its batteries, in electric mobility and automotive, but also rail transit, energy, solar panels, etc.
Why get into the automobile, being such a competitive, consolidated and investment-demanding sector?
Because we are committed to vertical integration. Are cutting edge in technology for electric vehicles, with all the elements within our own engineering, industrialization and production chain. Understanding all these parts gives us greater efficiency and greater competitiveness in the market and for the user.
BYD’s presentation in Spain was in March, what have you achieved after two long quarters?
Our priority was to launch the representation of the brand in the country. From the beginning we are firm believers in traditional dealership model: our priority is customer satisfaction, working together with actors who know the customer and the market perfectly… Fortunately, in Spain, in the last decade a series of groups have flourished in the distribution of automobiles, which, truly, is a luxury , with great professionalism and capabilities in all areas. As a new brand, we can achieve market deployment much faster and, fundamentally, ensures after-sales from the first minute.
In the global world, people see that the price of the same car in China is not the same as here…
Bringing a car to Europe is not cheap. I believe that BYD’s extensive product portfolio is already well known. We try select those that we are convinced best adapt to the market. Each of them is a separate project, which requires very high investments in homologation, manufacturing preparations, testing, engineering, etc., which has very high costs indeed.
Why sell only electric cars, when you also have competent hybrids?
Us We DO NOT consider hybrids that are not plug-in. We consider the plug-in hybrid a very convenient, but transitional technology. It can help us build volume and I think that within the next few weeks or a few months we will have news about the possibility of having a plug-in hybrid on the market, but we will continue with our 100% electric focus and where we want to put our maximum effort. Put parity in costs and prices, see how we offer solutions far beyond the car, throughout the charger ecosystem, more batteries, more panels.
For example, BYD chargers, instead of Wallbox chargers as you offered at the beginning.
Yes, correct, the charger is one of the options. We are also evaluating it, this is also another case in which we are in a process of analysis and adaptation of the product to European standards.
In China the car continues to be a growing status symbol. And in Spain?
We are seeing it in the new generations, that many do not get their driving license. New forms of mobility are also emerging (“car-sharing”, VTC, all the mobility services we have…) and the feeling of status of the car is fading. And we have to be there and we are going to be in all those new models as well.
What is BYD’s opinion on European taxes on Chinese companies that have received subsidies?
It is a process that has begun and we will collaborate in everything that is necessary and with the information that is requested, but internally we are very calm about the situation.
Are Chinese managers quick in making decisions?
Of course. They are very practical, I think this is the key word. It is very established in the mindset of Chinese corporate culture, which, above all, wants to learn very quickly. And then the reaction is also very fast. There is a phrase by “chairman” Wang, which says “it is not that the big fish eats the small one, it is the fast fish that eats the slow one.”
Until the end of the year you will not say where the European battery factory will be located, but does manufacturing cars in Europe bring significant advantages?
More than that, European manufacturing will give us having to think, design and have engineering by and for Europe, directly from scratch, which is the objective with which BYD we have come to Europe from the first minute. I think that is the most important part, we have seen it in other Asian manufacturers and we believe that, in our case, it is also the most natural process.
Does the charging network justify the reduced sales of electric vehicles?
The charging network, in the end, we always say is a consequence of what approach is being taken. We are doing the part we have to do, which is bringing an offer, because we have had a period of many years in which there has been a lack of options even for someone who could consider an electric vehicle. I don’t see the charging network as the reason, but rather one more consequence.
We are fully aware that, at the moment, In the situation we have in Spain, electric is not for everyone.
But it is also true that we can start a positive spiral, because as we have more supply, people will feel more attracted and we will demand that the charging networks continue their deployment and much more, because in this sector we are not only the manufacturers, but many other actors with whom we have to collaborate.