Phillip is set to receive yet another car-themed business, but don’t expect a traditional dealership. This one is billed as an ”experience centre” with the option to be hired out as a venue for corporate events.
It belongs to BYD (Build Your Dreams), the electric-car brand from China that has taken Australia by storm since orders first opened in July.
There are more models on the way but for now, its Atto 3 SUV EV – with a starting price of $48,011 – has rocketed the brand to the spot of second-biggest electric-vehicle (EV) seller in the country, after Tesla.
The national importer and distributor, EVDirect.com, has created a largely online presence for now, where customers can review, research and buy the cars online. This are to be complemented by in-person “experience centres” at 12 locations across Australia.
These will be managed in partnership with national dealership group Eagers Automotive, which recently purchased several dealerships in Canberra under the Janrule Automotive Group umbrella, including Canberra Toyota, Subaru Canberra, Phillip Mitsubishi and Volvo Cars Canberra, as well as the Gerald Slaven VW, Ford and Jeep dealerships in Belconnen.
An exact location is yet to be settled on, but a two-storey site in Parramatta Street near the 7-Eleven service station is a likely contender.
EVDirect CEO Luke Todd says the ”experience centre” will “feel more like an expo inside” compared with a traditional dealership. Yes, there will be vehicles on display for prospective buyers to get to grips with, but Luke says it’s more about education than the “hard pressure of selling”.
“We want to take people on a journey to explain to them the benefits of an EV, benefits to the environment, but also to the hip pocket,” he says.
“It’s about explaining the technology that underpins the vehicle, things like where the batteries end up at the end of their life, and answering all of the million questions that people have about EVs.”
Based on the success of its other centres, EVDirect will also open up the space to companies wanting to host sustainable-themed events.
“We’ve had brands come and use our facilities as their venue for talking about their own sustainability journey.”
So far, more than 200 Canberrans have placed orders for the BYD Atto 3. After a recent price hike, local driveaway pricing now starts at $48,011 for the standard 50 kWh battery model, with an estimated range of 320 km, and goes up to $51,011 for the long-range model, with a capacity of 420 km. Grey, blue and red are $700 colour options, the latter available only on the extended-range model.
Luke says while it will never be the biggest market here (compared to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane), Canberra was always high on the list of contenders for the experience centres for its “great progress in sustainability and renewable energy sources”.
“Canberra has demonstrated it wants to be on the journey to becoming a clean city and we want to be a part of that.”
For nearly three decades before coming to Australia, BYD became well known across the world for its rechargeable battery technology. The battery pack underpinning the Atto 3 is its ”Blade Battery”, which not only packs more power into a smaller space, but also, when severely damaged during testing, was found to be far less susceptible to catching fire than a conventional lithium-ion EV battery pack.
“We are the first brand that can not only offer a high-quality vehicle that is not only on par with internal-combustion cars on up-front cost, but will also save you considerable amounts of money over the life of the vehicle, on top of the rebates and incentives,” Luke says.
BYD also hasn’t been hit by the global semi-conductor shortage as badly as many other car manufacturers. The only delay in October was due to EVDirect halting imports to work with the relevant federal regulator on “a technical matter”.
Unlike other car factories, EVDirect has invested in their own production lines within the BYD mega-factories in China.
“This means EVDirect has a consistent production line capable of manufacturing tens of thousands of cars for the Australian market,” Luke says.
“With the Atto 3 soon to be joined by the lower cost and slightly smaller Dolphin and fastback Seal sedan in 2023, I’m very confident that BYD is going to be a top brand very quickly in the country.”
The Canberra BYD experience centre will open in mid-2023.