Tesla-beating BYD shows off its ambitions—including a 1,200-horsepower luxury SUV that can float on water



BYD is underscoring its European ambitions at the Geneva car show this week by showing off models including a 1,200-horsepower luxury sport utility vehicle that can float on water.

The Yangwang U8 plug-in hybrid—which is also able to make a 360-degree “tank turn” on the spot—would compete with the Mercedes-Benz G-Class and the Land Rover Defender and represents BYD’s push into the luxury market.

After muscling aside Volkswagen AG as China’s bestselling carmaker, BYD is expanding in Europe to create fresh revenue streams and escape a bruising price war in its home market. Europe’s incumbent automakers, meanwhile, are struggling with the complexities of shifting to electric vehicles while contending with cooling demand for the new technology.

While the Yangwang U8 is meant to showcase BYD’s technological prowess, the manufacturer also is bringing more mass-market products to Geneva. They include a revamped version of the five-seater Seal SUV and the fully electric Tang, which can drive 530 kilometers (329 miles) on a charge. 

The company that overtook Tesla as the world’s largest EV maker in the fourth quarter has already started selling models in the region including the Dolphin. The compact EV is listed at about €7,000 ($7,600) less than a similarly equipped VW ID.3, which the German carmaker originally pitched as the Beetle of the EV era.

Still, it remains unclear how successful the company will be with European drivers. Brussels is investigating the extent to which China has supported its EV makers—including BYD—in a probe that could result in the levying of additional tariffs as early as July.

VW, Stellantis, and Renault are all independently working on models costing €25,000 or less, with the latter showing off its R5 E-Tech EV in Geneva. The new version of the 1970s boxy classic is set to deliver an initial 400 kilometers of driving range on a single charge. Mercedes-Benz Group AG and BMW AG plan to roll out several new EVs with improved technology by mid-decade. Some of Europe’s carmakers are also considering teaming up to counter the Chinese influx.

BYD didn’t give many details on price and availability of the vehicles it’s showcasing in Geneva. The 17.5-feet-long Yangwang U8 is selling in China for around $150,000. Prices for the company’s models tend to be higher in Europe than in their home market. The G-Class starts at around $128,000 in Germany.

The Chinese carmaker has previously said that its premium Denza brand, which is 10% owned by Mercedes, will launch in Europe in the fourth quarter. 

Additional brands at the Geneva car show this week include Lucid, MG Motor, and Isuzu. Most of Europe’s major carmakers are absent.

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