Daimler Exits Denza Joint Venture With BYD

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Daimler AG and BYD Auto have agreed to change the ownership structure of their Shenzhen Denza New Technology joint venture, also known as Daimler-BYD, also known as ‘Denza‘. Under the new agreement, BYD will hold 90% of the shares and Daimler 10%. Daimler will only be a shareholder and no longer participate in the development and production of cars.

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Shenzhen Denza New Technology was founded in 2010, then under the name Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology. It was never a truly happy joint venture, with many delays and a near-total lack of products. It was only in 2012 that the joint venture announced the Denza brand name. Their first car, initially called Denza as well, launched another two years later, in 2014, but only in selected cities.

The Denza was an odd mix between the then outgoing Mercedes-Benz B-Class, the BYD e6, and some local design. Sales were slow but the joint venture didn’t do much about it. In 2018, four years after its launch, the Denza received an update and a new name: Denza 500. That indicated new cars were underway, and indeed in late 2019 Denza announced the X. It was a lazy effort, basically a BYD Tang with a new front and rear. The Denza X had fancy “Styled by Mercedes-Benz” badges but it was clear the Germans had little do to with the development of the vehicle. The X launched on the Chinese car market in 2020.

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So their exit doesn’t come as a very big surprise. The reasons for the ownership change are unknown at the moment but we bet both partners are happy to leave the joint venture behind. Daimler has enough on its plate in China with Beijing-Benz, Beijing-Foton-Daimler, and the upcoming new Geely-Daimler Smart. The same goes for BYD which is morphing into one of the largest new-energy companies in the world, with an export offensive on the way.

BYD said the Denza brand will be re-positioned as a high-mid-market EV brand, with prices ranging from 300.000 to 500.000 yuan ($47.000 – 78.000) and with a focus on SUVs and crossovers, with an MPV thrown in the mix.

The original 2014 Denza, also see my test drive.

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The 2018 Denza 500.

The 2020 Denza X.
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  1. In 2013, The Truth About Cars website reported that: Half of (COO) Röhringer’s contingent of 100-odd German engineers lives down by the beach in Dameisha. The other half, usually those who brought wives and children, live in Shekou, a part of Shenzhen where there is a German baker, and a Bierhaus, and where expats live in walled compounds….One has to wonder if these folks ever had their hearts in it. Also in 2013, the JV’s designer Peter Arcadipane was reported to have begun to share the belief of many that: “Denz is a doomed project”.

  2. Dear Dragn,

    In defense of Shekou and its citizens: I have been in Shekou several times, and had several friends there, German and Dutch, with some working for Denza. Shekou is a large area with several ports, including one with the ferry to Hong Kong. The ‘walled compounds’ you describe are situated around an old fishery port complete with a coast guard station. You are a tad too negative (: The compounds are inhabited by both foreign and Chinese citizens, most of them working in the ports or at BYD/Denza. The people that I knew were good folks; learning Chinese, traveling all over the country. The compounds weren’t exactly ‘walled’ either, they were actually more open than many compounds in Beijing or Shanghai. And yes, there was a German baker and a German bar, but also an Italian pizza place and whatnot more. There are German bakes and Italian pizzeria’s in every major Chinese city these days, so that isn’t very strange or something to make fuzz about. The German bar had great beer and was loved by Chinese and Laowai alike. A bit further down the coast was another bar, name I forgot, where you could drink pints while watching the big ships come and go. You also forgot to mention the international school and the fantastic international supermarket. All this, combined with the southern Chinese weather, made Shekou a kind of paradise in my eyes. And with the subway, it isn’t as far from Shenzhen as it used to be. But you are probably right about Denza: it was likely doomed from the start. Greetings! Tycho


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