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China’s BYD posts better electric car sales in first half of year

BYD, China’s leading producer of electric cars, said its sales of the cutting-edge vehicles rose sixfold during the first half of the year, following moves by Beijing to encourage green cars to tackle pollution.

Still, the jump — which brought BYD’s sales of full-electric and plug-in hybrid cars to roughly 7,600 in the six months ended June 30 — wasn’t big enough to signal there will be serious mass-market demand for the pricey cars, analysts said. And the increased sales of electric cars couldn’t offset a 27 per cent decline in sales of traditional gasoline-powered cars, which still account for nearly half of BYD’s total revenue.

Poor sales of gasoline-powered cars and continued losses from a division that makes solar panels pushed BYD’s first-half net profit down more than 15 per cent to CNY361 million versus the previous year, the company said Sunday.

BYD’s weak results underscore the challenges China’s carmakers face in their home market. The company, which is 9.1 per cent-owned by MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is the biggest seller of electric cars in China, with a 37 per cent share of the market during the first half of the year, according to BYD.

China’s central government has been trying to encourage electric-vehicle sales as part of its attempt to cut down on pollution, pushing local authorities to subsidize the purchase of green cars from a broader range of makers than they do now. Without subsidies, BYD’s flagship e6 electric car sells for around 380,000 yuan ($60,800) — a prohibitive price for most buyers.
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