We've heard the comment, "the Tesla Model S is a rich man's toy" before. Usually it comes from a Cranky McCrankster-type of character in the Comments beneath posts about the all-electric automobile. Not everyone sees the utility of an expensive car that can seat up to seven, run with Corvettes and only gets265 miles on a charge. We get that, sort of, and everyone's entitled to their opinion. It's a bit odd, though, hearing the remark fall from the lips of Wang Chuanfu, however.
BYD Auto's CEO made the comment – well, he said it in Chinese and it's been translated this way by theInternational Business Times – in an interview with Shanghai Securiites News, along with mentioning that he expects the California automaker to only capture a very small percentage of the Chinese market. That last bit is a fair point, though a tiny chunk of that burgeoning market could still mean a lot of sales. Tesla has intimated its hopes for at least 10,000 takers in its first year of operation in China and says its Beijing location is its biggest and most bustling. As for Chuanfu's comment, Tesla gave AutoblogGreen a simple, "no comment."
BYD, of course, sells its e6 electric sedan in its home country and its sales might not even reach the 10,000 level, despite being more affordable and boasting a respectable 186-mile range. Mr. Chuanfu expects bigger things for it Qin plug-in hybrid, which rings up at $31,000 and offers 41 miles of battery-powered range before the gasoline engine kicks in. China wants 500,000 plug-in vehicles plying its streets by 2015's end and BYD wants to be a big part of that picture.
While we can understand the competitive downplaying of Tesla's Chinese-market entrance, we expect that BYD is as well aware as anyone that Tesla has a more affordable future car on the horizon and that Chinese car buyers tend to favor foreign brands. It's a big market, though, so perhaps the two entities might help further each other's goals by cooperating on charging standards and infrastructure development instead of sniping. One can dream, right?