Buffett-Backed BYD Is Finally Bringing Electric Vehicles to the U.S.

We've had our doubts about BYD Auto. The Warren Buffett-backed Chinese electric vehicle maker has thus far failed to bring any EVs to the U.S. market, despite constant promises to the contrary--and three prior appearances at the Detroit Auto Show that have failed to produce anything commercially available in North America. Now it finally looks like BYD is serious about bringing EVs to the U.S.

BYD's five-seat e6 crossover, unveiled at this week's Detroit Auto Show, comes with a 160-kilowatt motor, a range of 200 miles, and a 60-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. The vehicle is expected to retail for $42,000 when it is released. That's significantly more expensive than Nissan's electric Leaf, which retails for $32,780.

That's not all BYD is promising. The automaker also debuted the S6DM, a gasoline electric hybrid that BYD says is the "first independent 4WD dual-mode electric SUV". The S6DM purportedly squeezes out 38 miles  on electric power and over 310 miles combined with the gas-powered engine.

BYD also showed off the F3DM, a previously unveiled plug-in hybrid sedan, at the auto show. The vehicle is modeled on the gas-powered BYD F3 sedan, which is very popular in China.

And here's the kicker: BYD claims that all three vehicles will be released in 2012, though the company doesn't yet know what order the vehicles will debut.

If BYD fails to deliver on its promises, it may lose what little faith it has from auto industry insiders. We noticed that the BYD stand was one of the least popular during busy times at the Detroit Auto Show on Monday/ That doesn't bode well for the company, which is only the first Chinese automaker to attempt to sell vehicles in the ultra-competitive U.S. market.

Read more coverage of the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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