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Buffett’s BYD Threatened by Prius in China Hybrid Shift

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s Prius hybrid is emerging as the likeliest winner from China’s faltering attempt to dictate the future of world motoring.

Policies favoring Warren Buffett-backed BYD Co. (1211) and other electric-vehicle makers were meant to help China vie for global leadership in a technology the government expected to replace clunkers that run on gasoline. Except, as Chairman Mao Zedong put it, “seek truth from facts,” and the fact is: EVs flopped.
Enlarge image Buffett’s BYD Threatened by Prius in China Shift to Hybrid

More subsidies for the Prius would offer Toyota a better chance to achieve in China the kind of success enjoyed by the 15-year-old gasoline-electric model in the U.S. and Japan. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
Holland on Berkshire Earnings, Buffett Leadership
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March 1 (Bloomberg) — Michael Holland, chairman of Holland & Co., talks about Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s fourth-quarter profit and the performance of Chief Executive Officer Warren Buffett. Holland speaks with Trish Regan and Adam Johnson on Bloomberg Television’s “Street Smart.” (Source: Bloomberg)
Toyota Prius a `Bargain’ for Consumers, Casesa Says
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Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) — John Casesa, senior managing director at Guggenheim Partners LLC, talks about the U.S. auto industry and Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius hybrid, which became the best-selling vehicle line this year in California. He talks with Tom Keene and Scarlet Fu on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Consumer appetite failed to materialize even with financial incentives that halved the price tag of a BYD e6. The 27,800 EVs on Chinese roads are fewer than 6 percent of the government’s 2015 target — and 0.02 percent of the total civilian fleet. For now, China needs to promote other technologies to cut the tailpipe fumes choking its cities, says one minister.

“We’re very anxious” about worsening air pollution, Miao Wei, industry minister and a three-decade veteran of China’s auto industry, said during last week’s annual National People’s Congress in Beijing. “I’ve never believed that you can gain global leadership in one leap.”

Translation: China may need to support more conventional technologies to lower pollution levels. Miao said he’s seeking support from other government branches to raise hybrid subsidies, aiming to unveil the policy plan in the first half.

Even Science Minister Wan Gang, one of the leading advocates of electric cars, is warming to the idea. At last week’s gathering of more than 5,000 lawmakers and officials, he said the switch to EVs will take more time than planned.
Expand Subsidies

“Subsidies should be based on the fuel consumption and emissions of the vehicle,” Li Shufu, chairman of Volvo Cars- owner Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., said at the Beijing meetings. “The government should expand subsidies to include more types of vehicles, including all sorts of hybrids.”

More subsidies for the Prius would offer Toyota a better chance to achieve in China the kind of success enjoyed by the 15-year-old gasoline-electric model in the U.S. and Japan. The Toyota City, Japan-based automaker sold 362,845 Prius cars globally last year, making it not only the top-selling hybrid but also No. 3 among all car lines in the world. In China, sales only reached 2,434 units last year, China Association of Automobile Manufacturers data show.

Toyota, recovering from a wave of anti-Japan sentiment in China last year, could use the help, though Tokyo-based spokesman Dion Corbett said the company doesn’t want to comment on government policy.
Market Share

While a 14 percent share of global car sales makes Toyota the top ranked manufacturer, in China it lags behind General Motors Co. (GM), Volkswagen AG, Hyundai Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. in fifth place, with about 5 percent of deliveries, according to CAAM estimates.

Unlike EVs, conventional hybrid cars have gasoline engines that helping recharge the battery for longer journeys. They also don’t need to be plugged in to a socket.
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