BYD’s new EV, starting under $10,000, is stoking fear among rivals

Leading EV maker BYD shook the industry after unveiling the new Seagull (Dolphin Mini), with starting prices as low as $9,700 (69,800 yuan). Although BYD’s new EV, which earned the nickname “Lamborghini mini,” is not sold in the US, American automakers are taking notes.

BYD’s new Seagull EV shocks the industry

BYD launched the new Seagull EV Honor Edition (Dolphin Mini overseas) earlier this month with a “shocking price” starting at around $9,700 (69,800 yuan).

Powered by BYD’s Blade batteries, the new EV is available in 30.08 kWh and 38.88 kWh versions. The former is good for up to 190 miles (305 km) CLTC range, while the latter provides up to 252 mi (405 km). It can also charge from 30% to 80% in 30 mins.

The inside doesn’t look like a cheap EV with a 10.1″ rotating center screen and otherwise minimalist design.

With DiLink’s intelligent network, users can interact and play videos. According to local reports, the Seagull has earned the nickname “Lamborghini mini,” as former Lamborghini designer Wolfgang Egger led the design.

Perhaps more importantly, BYD reportedly earns a profit on the Lamborghini mini, which has American automakers worried.

BYD Dolphin Mini (Seagull) launch in Brazil (Source: BYD)

According to Terry Woychowski, former GM executive and current president of automotive at Caresoft Global, BYD’s new Seagull could be a “clarion call for the rest of the industry.”

In a new CNBC report, Woychowski called the low-cost electric car “a significant event” as American automakers look to keep up.

BYD’s new Seagull EV (Source: BYD)

American automakers look to affordable EVs to compete

Caresoft, an engineering consulting firm, inspects (digitally and physically) every part of a vehicle to determine how its clients can improve efficiency.

After studying the new BYD Seagull, the firm found it simple and efficiently designed, built, and executed. However, Caresoft was met with better-than-expected quality and reliability.

“What they did do is done very well,” Woychowski explained. “It’s efficiently done.” For under $10,000, it’s a steal.

BYD Seagull (Dolphin Mini) testing (Source: BYD)

Although BYD has no plans to enter the US passenger EV market, if the Seagull arrived in America, it would likely still be tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than the average electric car.

BYD launched the Seagull EV in South America as the Dolphin Mini. In Brazil, the EV has a starting price of around $20,000 (99,800 BRL).

Meanwhile, American automakers are preparing for the inevitable. “What we’ve seen over time is automotive manufacturers eventually enter all the markets that matter,” Marin Gjaja, chief operating officer for Ford Model E, said in a recent interview with CNBC.

BYD Seagull (Dolphin Mini) interior (Source: BYD)

Ford is shifting plans to focus on smaller, more affordable EVs, including a compact electric pickup and SUV. According to sources, the first model is expected to launch in 2026, with a starting price of around $25,000.

Rival GM plans to introduce its next-gen Chevy Bolt EV, based on its Ultium platform, next year. According to CFO Paul Jacobson, the new Bolt EV will save billions as its first Ultium-based model to use LFP batteries. Ford also plans to use LFP batteries for its next-gen models to cut costs.

Electrek’s Take

American automakers are already losing market share. The “Big Three,” including Ford, GM, and Chrysler (owned by Stellantis now), have seen their share of the US market crater from 75% in 1984 to around 40% in 2023.

Ford’s CEO Jim Farley warned at a Wolfe Research conference last month that if automakers fail to keep up with Chinese automakers, like BYD, “then 20% to 30% of your revenue is at risk.”

Farley also called BYD’s new Seagull EV “pretty damn good,” as he warned the industry. Ford’s leader added, “As the CEO of a company that had trouble competing with the Japanese and the South Koreans, we have to fix this problem.”

The American automaker is developing a low-cost EV platform led by Alan Clarke, who previously oversaw engineering on Tesla’s Model Y.

Amid the shift to smaller EVs, Ford is reportedly putting off plans to launch a larger three-row electric SUV. Farley said building larger EVs, like the F-150 Lightning, is too costly.

Meanwhile, BYD launched a “liberation battle,” as it calls it, against gas-powered vehicles. The Chinese automaker has launched a series of low-cost EVs, including an updated version of its best-selling Dolphin.

BYD has a major advantage as it builds nearly all the components for its vehicles. For example, except for the windows and tires, everything is made in-house for the BYD Dolphin.

Reports suggest that BYD’s next-gen EV platform could slash costs even further, putting more pressure on American automakers to act.

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