China Charges Ahead

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A press conference April 30, 2010 at LA City Hall to announce the Chinese solar energy and automobile firm BYD will locate its US HQ in Los Angeles. (Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Reading East Coast papers like the Wall Street Journal, you could be forgiven for thinking the future of electric vehicles are in doubt. There are rational concerns about Tesla's viability - the hefty federal subsidy it's relying on to stay afloat - the lack of clarity about it's partnership with Toyota - the cars are so shiny.  The whole picture inspires  fashionable skepticism.

(The Nissan Leaf inspires ... not so much press coverage, and much of it with a decidedly patronizing spin.  Which is not the case for the Chevy Volt, even though Nissan is promising 100 miles on a single charge; GM, 40. Is this, like, a US chest-thumping thing?)

It's enough to make you wonder whether US reporters are paying serious attention to what's going on across the Pacific.  The way auto makers appear to be.

BYD has garnered attention on this blog, initially because there was some hope of a factory in Southern California.  The company tells Shifting Gears "No." The fastest-growing car maker by sales in China last year is only establishing corporate headquarters in LA, and plans to import any vehicles it may sell here.

Last year, BYD  delivered 448,397 vehicles to the Chinese market. At the same time, it's partnering with US companies like KB Home to expand the market here for its batteries.  Businessweek, by the way, is on the trend. But let's not over-focus on BYD. This whole discussion is naught but a prelude to this tidbit by the Shanghai Daily: Among the 31 mainstream Chinese car makers which released their half-year sales performance, around 60 percent ... failed to achieve their targets. Excuse me: 31 mainstream car makers? This isn't even a particularly strong year, according to the China Automotive Technology & Research Center.

You don't have to be Warren Buffet to spot where the center of gravity is in the global car market, let alone the global electric car market. Unless, perhaps, you live within driving distance of Wall Street. Or Tesla.

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About Rachael Myrow

From KQED’s Bureau in San Jose, Rachael Myrow covers politics, economics, technology, food and culture in a vast region extending from Burlingame to Edenvale to Fremont. This follows more than seven years waking at 3 am to host the daily version of KQED's California Report, broadcast on NPR affiliates throughout the state during NPR's Morning Edition. She still guest hosts for The California Report and Forum, blogs for Bay Area Bites, and files for NPR and PRI’s The World. Before KQED, she worked for Marketplace and KPCC in Los Angeles. Follow @rachaelmyrow

Comments (2)

  1. Pingback: Plug-in Porsche Sparks Buzz | Shifting Gears - From The California Report and KQED

  2. Steve Julian says:

    We are so far ahead of the curve you can see China from here.