Chinese battery and auto maker BYD and Bulgarian energy giant Bulmineral signed a joint venture agreement to build an auto assembly plant, which will be BYD’s first overseas electric vehicle joint venture.
The 50:50 joint venture company called Auto Group Motors will be located in the small town of Breznik, some 50 km west of the Bulgarian capital Sofia.
The plant will mostly produce electric buses, according to Alexander Usachev, chief executive officer of Bulmineral.
The first sample bus is expected to be rolled out in February 2013 and when the plant is operational at full capacity, it will produce 40 to 60 buses a month, Usachev said. Its passenger car assembling capacity will be clear in three months, Usachev added.
Electric buses made at its Bulgaria plant will be sold locally first and in neighbouring countries in the future, a BYD spokeswoman said.
The production will be expanded further by making the entire product range of BYD such as batteries and LED lights, Usachev said.
“We are looking forward to having our partner here helping us to develop the business in Europe,” said Ho Isbrand, general manager of the Auto Export Trade Division at BYD Auto Co.
BYD’s JV with Bulmineral is the second largest Chinese automotive project in Bulgaria. In February 2012, Chinese carmaker Great Wall Motor opened an auto assembly plant near the town of Lovech in northern Bulgaria, its first joint venture in Europe, together with its Bulgarian partner Litex Motors.
First e-bus assembly plant in the U.S.
China Daily reported that BYD also nailed an e-bus assembly plant in Los Angeles. The plant will open sometime in 2013, according to Li Ke, BYD’s senior vice president, who added the location will be announced in March or April.
Li said BYD’s goal is to open the plant in 2013, and build 50 to 100 buses in 2014. Production capacity will be at least 500 buses per year from 2015 on.
BYD already has a small presence in the U.S. The company opened a U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles in October 2011, and has collaborated with rental car giant Hertz on electric airport shuttle buses and electric rental cars.