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‘This Doesn’t Come Across Cheap’

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China has put everyone on notice, but you probably already knew that by now. European, Japanese, and American automakers have struggled to sell their EV shapes at a reasonable price, without sacrificing any semblance of profitability. Meanwhile, cheap and cheerful Chinese-branded EVs have only continued to proliferate across the globe, reaching price parity with ICE cars without destroying profit.

Seeking to figure out how the heck Chinese OEMs do it, Detroit-area Automotive benchmarking company Caresoft imported one for analysis. With it, automotive journalist veteran John McElroy and Terry Woychowski, the president of the Automotive Benchmarking and Cost Reduction Consulting company, Caresoft are left significantly impressed.

“This doesn’t come across as cheap,” said Woychowski.

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The BYD Seagull Is An Immense Success

The BYD Seagull has been an incredible success for the Chinese brand. Officially launched in China in April 2023, the brand had produced a stunning 200,000 units by the start of December of the same year. With a base price of roughly $10,000 and a range of up to 250 miles (on the CLTC standard), it’s little wonder why the small cheap car has been so popular. 

The video begins with the two analyzing the exterior of the vehicle, as Woychowski calls out some of the probable cost-saving measures BYD took to manufacture the Seagull. For example, the Seagull only has one mono wiper for the entire vehicle, and it is on the front. There is no rear wiper, which means that BYD only has to manufacture one wiper arm, one wiper motor, and one wiper blade, driving down costs.

Similarly, the two presenters remarked on BYD’s knack for vertical integration. Not much, if anything, on the Seagull is outsourced to a third-party supplier. Body panels, light clusters, motors, batteries, power electronics, and more are all made in-house, by BYD itself. 

But some of the real masterful manufacturing that Woychowski gushes over, is how some of the vehicle’s spot welds, particularly at the rear trunk portal area, are exceptionally neat. According to Woychowski, it doesn’t like BYD’s factories had issues trying to get the panels in place. Also, because the welds are good-looking, they won’t need to be hidden with trim, saving costs.

BYD Seagull Video Autoline 2

The video is McElroy and Woychowski impressed by the Seagull’s perceived quality and immense value. At a price of roughly $11,500, the Seagull offers a lot of utility and equipment for not much price. This test vehicle came with a (synthetic) leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, a power driver’s seat, and a surprisingly high amount of soft-touch surfaces. McElroy was impressed with the driving experience. With a mere 75 horsepower or so, it’s not lightning-fast, but it is adequate.

This imported Seagull wasn’t made to pass US crash standards, but Woychowski did mention that BYD as a whole is altering its model lineup to sell in Europe and beyond. BYD has already made significant alterations to the Dolphin, adding a bigger nose for improved crash performance. 

BYD Seagull Video Autoline I

This just once again shows how far China and BYD have come in the global automotive race. I can second McElroy’s opinions, although I haven’t driven a BYD Seagull, I was able to get behind the wheel of a BYD Atto 3 while in Paris a short while ago. I was similarly gobsmacked with how good the vehicle was. The driving experience was pleasant, and the car’s construction felt remarkably neat.

Like McElroy, I understood why so many consumers are buying BYDs and the like. Chinese cars have reached the point where they’re purchased on merit, and not necessarily because they’re cheap. Those facts mean that Chinese EVs inherently are an existential threat to every other automaker.

Caresoft’s BYD Seagull will be taken apart, studied, and benchmark-tested. Soon, we’ll have a better understanding of how BYD was able to make this car so cheap, and if it’s even possible for other automakers. 

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