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BYD Shows Musk How it’s Done

Musk’s second master plan for the carmaker — released Wednesday — calls for the extension of Tesla’s electric vehicle lineup to “cover the major forms of terrestrial transport,” a Tesla-ish reference to trucks and buses.

According to Musk’s blog post, the new vehicles will cut the cost of cargo transport, reduce congestion and “transition the role of bus driver to that of fleet manager.”

BYD doesn’t have an ounce of Tesla’s pizazz, but instead it has a record of quiet achievement.

BYD has been making electric buses since 2010 and its 10,000th model rolled off the production line in April. Last month, it started the conveyors on a new factory in Qingdao that will manufacture 5,000 battery-powered buses a year, according to the China Daily.

BYD even ventured into Tesla’s home territory by opening an electric bus factory in the outskirts of Los Angeles. The same plant has struck a deal with the state government to build electric trucks for a test project hauling goods around California’s ports.

BYD’s Qin and Tang car models don’t have the oomph of the old Tesla Roadster. Nor can they match the Model S, whose Autopilot mode gets the science-fiction feel just right by being both exciting and somewhat alarming.

But the Chinese automaker should not be underestimated. It produced nearly 50 percent more electric vehicles than Tesla last year, and it enjoys voracious demand in China for EVs, thanks to Beijing’s plan to double battery-powered vehicle sales to 558,000 units this year.

BYD is doing what Musk has promised to accomplish, being the biggest player in that field, with a market share more than 10 times Tesla’s.

Right now, Tesla isn’t getting its current lineup of vehicles out the door on time, or making money on them.

While BYD’s financial performance is as handsome as a young Dorian Gray — delivering $1.2 billion (8 billion yuan) of operating profits over the past 12 quarters — Tesla increasingly resembles the portrait in his attic, with $1.2 billion of losses.

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