Between sub-brands, families and series, the Chinese manufacturer BYD offers a wide choice of electric vehicles. So much so that we wonder if we will soon need a high degree to understand the ranges of this manufacturer.
It’s hard to blame Chinese automaker BYD for being prolific when it comes to new electric (and hybrid) vehicles. Faced with the inaction of certain traditional manufacturers, the Chinese are flooding the market with new references to satisfy customer demand. But, unless you are a specialist in the brand, it becomes more and more complicated to follow its logic and to distinguish the positioning of certain models, which seem to cannibalize each other. Fortunately, not all of these models will arrive in Europe, many are reserved for the local market, which makes our task a little easier. Or almost, because the brand loves to confuse us.
At the Guangzhou Motor Show (China), BYD presented the Sea Lion 07 on November 17, 2023. The Chinese brand continues to name its models after marine animals and its bestiary is already well stocked. However, the name “Sea Lion” will not be that of a single model, like the Dolpin or Seagull, but that of a whole new range of models. Needless to say, it will be difficult to navigate.
Sea Lion or Seal U: which is a competitor to the Model Y?
The new Sea Lion 07 is presented by Bloomberg as ” BYD’s response to Tesla’s Model Y “. The Sea Lion 07 is 4.83 m long, while Tesla’s Model Y is 4.75 m long. It is above all the price positioning which will naturally mark it as a competitor to the Model Y. Prices for the Sea Lion 07 will be between 200,000 and 260,000 yuan (i.e. between €25,525 and €33,200). In China, the Tesla Model Y has just increased its starting price and is selling the Propulsion version at 266,400 yuan (or €34,000), which is more than the highest version of the BYD Sea Lion 07.
By presenting the novelty as “ the first ‘Mid-size’ electric SUV », Bloomberg is not going to help us avoid getting confused. The model is actually already in internal competition with BYD Song L and Denza N7. In addition, from a European point of view, it is a completely different model that was presented as a competitor to the Model Y.
At the beginning of September, BYD presented the Seal U model at the Munich Motor Show. This is a model described (wrongly) as an SUV derivative of the Seal sedan. This model is closer to the dimensions of the Tesla Model Y, since it is 4.78 m, only 3 cm longer than the Tesla Model Y. Its price is even lower than the Sea Lion 07. It is this model which should be the competitor of the Model Y, but again nothing is simple at BYD, because Seal U does not exist in China, in any case not under this name.
To try to find your way around the BYD models…
To simplify the variations of the models a little, we must already separate out the new products from the subsidiary “Denza” and those from “Yangwang”. The Denza models are more upscale (premium) versions, like the Genesis models for the Hyundai group, or Lexus for Toyota. The most accurate comparison would perhaps be with Audi in the Volkswagen group, because BYD also launched the Yangwang brand in China, with models targeting the luxury segment, which we could then imagine as a “Porsche-style” positioning. “. Before irritating Porsche enthusiasts, please note that Porsche and Yangwang of course have nothing to do with each other. This is to simply illustrate the hierarchy of new brands.
To return to the heart of the BYD range, the models are theoretically separated into two large families: those bearing the name of one of the great dynasties of China and those linked to the marine world. The design is what separates them, because in terms of engine or price, it is relatively similar in both camps.
In Europe, Han and Tang are therefore “Dynasty” models, while Dolphin and Seal are from the “Ocean” family. What about Atto 3? Technically, it is a model from the “Dynasty” range, renowned for international export. Moreover, the Dolphin was designed to be sold as Atto 2 and the Seal sedan as Atto 4, before the manufacturer changed its mind.
With the addition of the Seal U model, announced at the Munich Motor Show, there would normally be as many models for both families in Europe. However, the Seal U is actually an internationally renowned “Song Plus”. It is therefore also a model of the “Dynasty” family which passes itself off as “Ocean”. There is in fact no real link between the Seal sedan and the Seal U SUV version.
Models that will be available in ranges
In China, the Seal is therefore a unique model which could transform into a range of sedans with several variations. It is difficult to know if this will also concern the international market, where “Seal” has already become a range with two references: a sedan and an SUV. Unless by the time it arrives in Europe, the Seal U will be renamed, once again.
Sea Lion should also see different versions appear from 2024 in China: Sea Lion 05 and 06, depending on Carnewschina. This range would then focus on SUV type bodies. We do not yet know if the Sea Lion 07 will be exported to Europe, but it is very likely.
Tesla has continued to generally limit itself to 4 models in its range for several years, with the Cybertruck being set apart for the moment. For its part, BYD is launching model after model at a breakneck pace. In Europe alone, BYD has already launched the marketing of 5 electric cars in one year. We can even talk about 6 models with the Seal U planned for early 2024. On the Chinese market, the figure is doubled. The brand launches an average of one new vehicle per month.
However, to succeed outside China, it is not enough to multiply the products in the catalog, you must also know how to meet the expectations and requirements of customers in the targeted countries. On this subject, BYD still has a little to learn to adapt to our habits. For the look of the cars, BYD already hired designer Wolfgang Egger in 2016, who spent his career in the Fiat then Volkswagen group. But a final effort still needs to be made on the final small adjustments to the car’s behavior.
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