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Chinese Electric Car Maker May Expand Lineup

BYD, Chinese maker of the e6 all-electric crossover vehicle, says it may expand its lineup for the North American market in coming years.

DETROIT (AP) -- The Chinese automaker BYD Co. that plans to sell an all-electric crossover vehicle in North America by year's end said Tuesday that it may expand its lineup for export to that market in coming years.

Fred Ni, a general manager with BYD, said the China-built crossover dubbed the e6 will be "very affordable." He declined to disclose the price, but said it would be comparable to gas-powered cars of similar size.

"We are considering other vehicles for introduction as well, but that has not been finalized," Ni said following the company's presentation at the North American International Auto Show.

BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, has the backing of billionaire investor Warren Buffett. His MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., the utility division of his Omaha, Neb.-based flagship Berkshire Hathaway, has a 9.9 percent stake in the Hong Kong-traded company.

BYD sold 450,000 vehicles in China last year and said it wants to raises sales to be 800,000 this year in its home market.

BYD said the five-seat e6 headed for the North American market has a top speed of 87 mph and can travel up to 205 miles on a single charge. BYD said it will take about one hour to fully charge at a dedicated station or longer at a standard home outlet.

Aaron Bragman, an auto analyst for IHS Global Insight in Troy, Mich., said BYD will have a difficult time selling cars in the U.S. because its designs look older than Americans are accustomed to, and the quality of body panel assembly and paint don't measure up to U.S. standards.

But he said it won't be long until BYD and other Chinese automakers raise their games and will be competitive in the U.S. Bragman also said BYD had its hands full satisfying huge sales demand and high growth potential at home, and he doubts it will want to be distracted by selling cars in the U.S.

BYD plans to use partnerships to establish a dealer network in the U.S. to sell and service the e6, but locations and other details haven't been finalized. BYD said the e6 also is expected to be sold soon in China.

BYD started out building conventional cars. In 2008, it became the first automaker to launch mass production of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle -- the F3DM -- that's sold in China and can be charged off a standard home outlet.

BYD started as a battery manufacturer and has top-notch battery chemistry that could interest other automakers or could give it an edge over U.S. manufacturers. On Tuesday, BYD said partnership was a possibility.

"We hope to join forces with manufacturers to promote electric vehicles," said Henry Z. Li, general manager of BYD's auto export division.

AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher contributed to this story.