The world’s largest seller of electric and hybrid cars will not consider building its first European car factory in the UK because of the impact of Brexit.
China’s BYD, which has been backed by the US investment billionaire Warren Buffett since 2008, intends to take on household names such as Tesla and become one of the three most popular electric vehicle brands in Europe by the end of the decade.
China’s top-selling electric car maker, which is targeting sales of about 800,000 cars annually in Europe by 2030, has shortlisted locations in Germany, France, Spain, Poland and Hungary.
“As an investor we want a country to be stable,” said Michael Shu, BYD’s European president, speaking to the Financial Times. “To open a factory is a decision for decades. Without Brexit, maybe. But after Brexit, we don’t understand what happened.”
BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, said the UK had not even made a top 10 list of possible locations to build its first European car plant. The company already makes buses in Europe.
“The UK doesn’t have a very good solution,” said Shu. “Even on the long list we didn’t have the UK.”
The Hong Kong-listed BYD, which has its headquarters in Shenzen and began developing batteries in 1995, intends to become a global powerhouse in the electric vehicle market.
It is not the first manufacturer to have cited issues relating to Brexit in deciding not to expand business opportunities in the UK.
Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, said in 2019 that the decision to leave the EU made it too risky to build a gigafactory in the UK. The company built its first European plant in Germany, where it also created a research and development base.
Other car manufacturers are also being forced to assess their business requirements amid tough global economic conditions. Ford announced 4,000 job cuts in Europe including 1,300 in the UK in February.
Ford has said it would invest $50bn (£41bn) in electric car production by 2026, but it must also decide what to do with operations built around the internal combustion engine before bans on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. Jaguar has pledged to go all-electric by 2025 and BMW said last month that half its European sales will be electric by 2030.
BYD is one of a handful of Chinese companies – such as Nio, Xpeng and Li Auto – targeting the European electric car market.
It has launched three models in Europe, in markets including Norway and Germany, and the all-electric Atto3 sports utility vehicle in the UK.
The SUV has already proved to be a huge seller in China and India, where BYD is aiming this year to become the second-largest EV company behind Tata Motors.