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BYD to enter Europe in 2-3 years

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China's BYD Co Ltd expects to start selling cars in Europe within two to three years, counting on an increasingly fuel-conscious consumer base to be drawn to its dual-mode electric-hybrid vehicles, its chairman said.

"We are very confident about this," Wang Chuanfu, chairman of Hong Kong-listed battery maker BYD Co, told Reuters in an interview at the Geneva auto show.

BYD Auto, set up in 2003 by the BYD Group, has used its expertise in batteries to develop rechargeable electric vehicles that it expects to eventually compete with General Motors Corp's and Toyota Motor Corp's proposed plug-in hybrids.

BYD Auto plans to roll out a dual-mode sedan, a car that can switch between electric and hybrid modes, in China by the end of this year, and then in Europe as early as in 2010, Wang said.

"Battery technology is our core competency, and we think we are well-placed against GM and Toyota," he said, adding that BYD's dual-mode car could be driven 110 km on electricity before recharging.

Sales are expected to be small, initially 500 units a month in China, rising to 2,000 a month next year, he predicted. BYD, which now has annual production capacity of 300,000 vehicles, has a goal of becoming the largest automaker in China by 2015.

Its first car, the F3, sold 100,000 units globally in the first year and a half, including in the Middle East.

Wang said its dual-mode cars have a price premium over gasoline-only versions of about 5,000 euros, a difference he said consumers could easily offset with lower running costs amid record-high fuel prices.

BYD is showcasing the F1 small hatchback and hybrid models at its first Geneva auto show.

(source: BYD)

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