The Changing of the Guard

The changing of the times

When Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz, heir to the Austrian Hungarian throne, on 28 June 1914, his intention was not to start the First World War. But historians, looking back after the end of WWI, could pinpoint his act as a key domino in a series of dominos that led to half the world getting drawn into “The war to end war.”

On Thursday 29 June 2023, an event happened that SA historians might one day pinpoint as the key moment when a changing of the guard occurred. On this day BYD launched its first EV in South Africa – the Atto 3. It is a stylish, roomy, family SUV in the C-segment.

BYD stands for Build Your Dreams and in a previous blog, I raved about this Chinese company that produces 110 000 EVs every month, making it the leading new energy manufacturer in the world. And now they are in the South African space, which has been rigorously controlled by among others Ford, Mercedes Benz, Toyota, VW-Audi, and BMW.

All of these have various strategies to meet the challenges of moving from ICE to EV, within the constraints of the SA socio-political and economic constraints. Will they adapt quickly enough to weather the Chinese challenge? Or will they die? Because BYD is not a fly-by-night. BYD is a serious player, it has cheap labour and resources on its side, and it is prepared to play the long game. Steven Cheng, BYD’s General Manager for SA, told launch guests he has been preparing to launch in SA for five years. (Were EVs on your radar 5 years ago? Certainly not on mine.)

I was a little disappointed that they chose to launch in the R768-R835K range, not only because it’s out of my budget, but because it will confirm sceptics’ belief that EVs are expensive. Only when they release their Dolphin at under R500k will that preconception be put to rest.

At the end of my previous BYD blog, I asked you to watch this space. I ask you to continue doing so and witness the changing of the guard. I hope this key moment in SA’s EV history is one that sparks a positive reaction among automakers. But I caution those with entrenched interests and mindsets to remember how quickly Nokia fell from being the leading cellphone maker to becoming a footnote or a quaint memory. If they do not react positively Build Your Dreams might just become the stuff of their nightmares.

Thank you for reading. If you disagree with me, I’d love to hear from you at: [email protected]

Tim is a greying redhead who thinks green. He is the author of books on welding, soccer and Herman Charles Bosman

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