Chinese battery firm turned automaker hit the news a couple of times last week for all the wrong reasons.  But less than a week after the firm was the center of a major auto scandal it has quietly started to prepare itself for a late 2011 U.S. Launch.

So why is a company which previously been exuberantly ostentatious about its U.S. launch plans now quietly setting up a chain of dealers without much fanfare?

Perhaps unwanted attention in the past few weeks has made BYD bosses more cautious?

Let's recap.

First, Warren Buffet’s favorite electric car company had to suffer the slings and arrows of leaked documents published on WikiLeaks. Making severe allegations of industrial espionage, illegal selling practices and unsafe vehicles, the documents outlined a company far from ready for the U.S. market. 

A few days later, contributor to our sister site GreenCarReports detailed her own test drive in one of BYD’s latest F3DM plug-in hybrid sedans, currently on loan to the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA).  On her own blog, Alysha Webb detailed how the car’s battery had gone from estimating a range of 100 miles to 88 miles after just 2 miles of driving.  Webb’s conclusion? That the 3DFM needs much more work before coming to market. 

Despite the negative press, and a fourth quarter drop in profit from domestic sales of 94%, BYD is hanging on. 

BYD F3DM plug-in hybrid

BYD F3DM plug-in hybrid

And preparing to enter the U.S. market this fall. 

At least, that’s what Michael Austin, Chicago-based vice president of BYD America told 

Glendale News-Press earlier this week. 

Demonstrating BYD’s offices and cars on a site owned by Cars 911 at 400 S. Brand Blvd, Austin told reporters that while he was hopeful the BYD e6 all electric car would be well received by American consumers “The paradigm of driving a Chinese car in the U.S. is going to be a hard break.”

Hard indeed: especially for a firm yet to receive much love from those who have test-driven the 3DFM. 

BYD remains focused however, with a reported 10 dealerships lined up across the country for fleet and consumer sales due to start in late 2011 or early 2012.

Although this sounds positive we’ve some niggling concerns. 

byd auto f3dm plug in hybrid 02

byd auto f3dm plug in hybrid 02

Firstly, in the article with Glendale News-Press, the owner of Cars 911 which was cited as having expressed an interest in hosting a BYD dealership at his premises, was ‘unavailable for comment’, even though BYD currently rents offices at the dealership. 

Secondly, and most distressing, is the lack of real information from BYD about final specifications for a car it claims is due this fall.  There’s still no crash test reports, no range tests, no interior specifications, no official price or even pre-order details. Instead, we’re still hearing the same vague estimations normally associated with a concept car. 

Will BYD make it to the U.S. and sell the claimed 20,000 cars it hopes to before the end of 2012? 

More electric cars on the roads will be a good thing, but we just don’t believe BYD yet. Color us skeptical. 

[Glendale News-Press]