SHENZHEN, China, Dec 15 (Reuters) - China's BYD Co (1211.HK: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) plans to sell its plug-in hybrid cars, the country's first homegrown electric vehicle, in European and U.S. markets in 2011, BYD chairman Wang Chuan Fu told reporters.
BYD, which is 10 percent owned by U.S. investor Warren Buffett, originally aimed to sell the hybrid cars abroad in 2010 but Wang would not give any reasons for the delay.
The firm officially launched the F3DM on Monday and said it will sell a total of 50 units of the hybrid cars to the Shenzhen municipal government and China Construction Bank (0939.HK: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).
Many of the world's big carmakers, including General Motors (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Toyota (7203.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), are racing to develop electric and hybrid vehicles that could help to ease global environment problems such as carbon dioxide emissions.
The F3DM, which has a small gasoline engine as a back up, is available in 14 Chinese cities at 149,800 yuan ($21,890) per unit, Wang said.
The price tag is at the high-end of a range of between 100,000 yuan to 150,000 yuan estimated by analysts and doubles the price of a similar sized gasoline-powered car in China.
Wang told reporters the price was a bit high but it was lower than the same type of cars on sales in overseas markets.
"If the government can provide supportive measures such as tax incentives, the price of the cars can be reduced to the level that the public can afford," Wang said.
The company is aiming at corporate buyers initially and will expand sales to the mass market in the second half of 2009.
BYD is in talks with state power grid operators on setting up rechargeable facilities but currently the cars have to charge at home, Wang said. ($1=6.844 Yuan) (Reporting by Joanne Chiu; Editing by Keiron Henderson)
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