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Challenges Mount for Chinese Maker of Electric Cars

A BYD e6 electric car is recharged near a BYD electric bus. The car takes 40 minutes to charge.

HONG KONG — Four years ago, the BYD Company promoted the electric battery technology it was developing as a way to help China transform the automobile. No less an investor than Warren E. Buffett, one of the world’s richest men, boasted about the company’s prospects and bought a 10 percent stake.
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Kin Cheung/Associated Press
Warren Buffett, left, bought a 10 percent stake in BYD. At right is Wang Chuanfu, the company’s founder and chairman.
But recently, nothing has gone right. BYD’s stock is down 43 percent from its high on Feb. 8 as investors and analysts have questioned whether the company has the technology or the manufacturing quality to be an enduring competitor in the Chinese market.

BYD’s sales of gasoline-powered cars, the company’s commercial mainstay, have wilted this spring as Chinese buyers have moved toward more expensive but better-quality cars from its rivals. At the same time, BYD now accepts that the future of the auto industry is more likely to lie in hybrid gasoline-electric cars, a technology in which it lags Japanese manufacturers, and not in all-electric cars, which still face issues of battery range and recharging time.

And on Sunday, new questions arose about the company’s battery technology when a Nissan GT-R sports car traveling at more than 110 miles an hour slammed into the back of one of BYD’s electric taxis in southern China and set the vehicle aflame


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