BYD Qin plug-in hybrid in showroom in Costa RicaEnlarge Photo
Chinese automaker BYD was the first car company in the world to put a plug-in hybrid passenger car into production, a couple of years before the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car hit the road.
Despite several hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric product lines, however, the vast majority of BYD's sales volume comes from selling gasoline vehicles in China.
BYD K9 All-Electric Bus, as tested in Portland OREnlarge Photo
And the company is losing ground in its home market, as are most native Chinese automakers not selling globally recognized brands.
First-half sales of BYD's gasoline cars plummeted 27 percent to 180,000--a decline far greater than rising sales of its plug-in cars, which totaled 7,600--according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).
For the full year, BYD expects to sell 20,000 plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles, primarily its Qin and e6 models respectively.
Chinese battery electric crossover: BYD e6 test drive, Los Angeles, May 2012Enlarge Photo
The Chinese national government and some municipalities are now exerting increasing pressure on automakers to build, and consumers to buy, plug-in vehicles to combat rampant and dangerous air pollution.
But price-sensitive buyers have largely rejected the more expensive plug-in vehicles, and no more than 50,000 are likely to be sold this year out of a market approaching 20 million new cars a year.
ALSO SEE: Buffet's Baby BYD Auto Is a Big Electric-Car Copycat (Feb 2010)
In North America, BYD has abandoned plans to sell its e6 electric crossover to retail buyers. The company is now focusing on sales of its all-electric transit bus, which is being tested by California's Long Beach and Los Angeles, Portland, and other cities.
Overall results at BYD were also hurt by poor performance at a unit that makes solar photovoltaic panels.
BYD Autos gets more attention in the U.S. than other Chinese automakers because fabled investor Warren Buffet owns a 9.1-percent stake in the carmaker.