By Jack Biddle
Another new brand has hit our shores and comes with impressive features, price tag and a somewhat odd nametag.
Just when you may have thought the new car market could not possibly become more crowded, a new all-electric small SUV with the unusual nametag of BYD has reached our shores and brings with it some proven and leading technology in the area of new energy vehicles (NEVs). Firstly though, some consumers may have to learn to get over any preconceived ideas about product originating from China and secondly, the nameplate is hardly conventional and may take some explaining to the uninitiated.
BYD is short for Build Your Dreams and stems from BYD Auto which is the automotive subsidiary of BYD Co Ltd, a Chinese multinational with a diverse range of interests and stated goals to become a powerhouse in the new energy sector. It has seen a meteoric rise in the development of automobiles and NEVs in a very short time, but has been around for some years as a battery provider supplying Motorola (from 2000) and Nokia (from 2002) with lithium-ion batteries. In 2021, BYD Auto became recognised as the second-largest producer of NEVs in the world, with a product portfolio incorporating electric and plug-in hybrid cars, buses, trucks, forklifts, electric bicycles, and cutting-edge rechargeable battery production. It’s an all new brand to Kiwi buyers for sure, but not to the wider world.
BYD Auto is represented in New Zealand by Ateco Automotive NZ Ltd, a 100% Kiwi-owned company which is already the well-established NZ distributor for Jeep, Ram Trucks, Fiat and Alfa Romeo. A dealer network is already in place throughout the main centres and continues to grow which provides both peace of mind and convenience for potential buyers.
Two model variants badged ATTO 3 (both front-wheel-drive) are currently on showroom floors and are distinguished by their battery size and vehicle colour selection only. The extended range vehicle ($57,990) will incorporate the larger of the batteries on offer (60kW unit), providing a claimed 420km range while the standard range vehicle ($52,990), fitted with a smaller battery (50kW unit), will provide a claimed range of 345km. Like all motor vehicles, whether they be petrol, diesel or battery power, range is all dependent on load, driving conditions and the driver’s right foot amongst other things, so it never pays to take any salesperson’s or brochure claims as pure gospel as it’s more a general guide. Still a claimed range between 345km and 420km is getting up there and unheard of not that long ago, when it came to mainstream electric vehicles. Current prices do not include on-road-costs but both models qualify for the Government’s Clean Car Rebate of $8,625.
The key point of difference with the BYD electric technology in the ATTO 3 has to do with its unique lithium-ion phosphate battery design and is called a Blade battery. Due to its design, it takes up less space and has claims to be stronger, longer lasting, stores more power and offers greater range while delivering a higher level of safety than conventional designs. A factory warranty of 8 years or 160,000kms (whichever comes first) is not a bad way of backing up such claims. And for those who thought the ATTO 3 may be just a one-trick electric pony, they only need to take a closer look at the safety and comfort package which is offered standard on both variants to be convinced otherwise. Included in the safety package are features such as multiple airbags, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control with Automatic Emergency Braking System, Front and Rear Collision Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring and Traction Control System. On the comfy side, goodies include heated front seats, keyless entry, a one-touch open and close tailgate, electrically heated, adjustable and retractable side mirrors, and an electric panoramic sunroof with electric slide.
All variants come with a bumper to bumper 6 year / 150,000km warranty (whichever comes first) and roadside assistance. Can New Zealand sustain more and more models to what is already becoming a crowded space? Well the answer seems to be a definite yes, based on the inroads other recent newbies like MG and Havel (also out of China) have made. It’s good news for consumers also, as any increase in competition will surely keep prices sharp with new vehicle distributors offering the best deals possible to help retain their customers as well as enticing potential new business into showrooms. The biggest selling point could well come down to the brands that offer the best customer service and deliver on promises, regardless of where the vehicles originate from.
And the new arrivals haven’t stopped just yet, with the German brand Opel set to launch itself into the Kiwi market with a range of low emission vehicles including an electric range before year end.