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BYD Auto Targets U.S. Debut for 2012

Stocks in this article: BYD TM GM TSLA MMI LAS

It feels one of the biggest advantages BYD has over other electric car markets is that it's an integrated company which produces batteries as well as the cars. Even though most think of BYD as only a car company, cars are simply one of three main divisions.

It has an equal focus on solar, as well as energy storage. It's that energy storage business in which it develops its battery technology which gets leveraged in its cars. Therefore, it believes it can optimize the cars and batteries together for a better product with better specs and at a better price. Other car companies - take Tesla (TSLA) for example - have to use battery suppliers from external suppliers like Panasonic, for example.

BYD has its own battery plant in Shaanxi province. It also has a large solar plant in the same province. It even has a consumer electronics division that isn't connected to autos, solar, or batteries, but which has been showing signs of life lately on the recent strength of Motorola (MMI), a big strategic partner.

Despite BYD's Buffett connection and recent success, the stock has many skeptics who think it's overbought at the current levels, even though it's almost half the price of where it was at in the first quarter of 2010.

The short argument is that BYD has relied heavily of government orders and government tax incentives to boost its growth to date. Some of those incentives have been taken away and BYD's guidance has been lowered twice by the company in the past year. Mr. Lin pointed out that the U.S. has similar tax incentives for its own manufacturers, such as the Tesla's $500 million loan from the Department of Energy.

BYD critics also point to the company's lack of profit as a major cause for concern. When I discussed this with Mr. Lin, he said it was not the right time to focus on profit. BYD had aimed to get its product out in the market and demonstrate its durability. There have been a number of deals which the company has struck with local Chinese governments for taxis, buses, and police cars. These weren't aimed to be huge money-makers, he said, but to show future consumers how well the car performs from heavy users.

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