BYD’s inflatable Dolphin: Why Euro version is larger than the Chinese?

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This week, BYD announced it would export the Dolphin to Europe and revealed the basic specs of the car. It was the second line in the press release that caught my attention. BYD calls the Dolphin a C-segment car. I was surprised by that and dived into the specs. It turns out, the Euro-Dolphin is quite a different car than the Chinese original.

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First, let me explain the European car segments. Europeans classify cars by size and use a letter to identify a specific class. For sedans, the classification goes from A to F, with the A-class being the smallest vehicle. There is no official definition of the different classes, or rules about which car fits in what category. It’s all a very relative system, based on market perception.

For instance, the C-segment is the category of cars similar in size to the Volkswagen Golf. When this classification first appeared, in the late 1970s or early 1980s, the Golf was about 3.7 meters long. Today it’s 4.25 meters, but still, it’s C-class. As cars grow a little with every generation change, the categories grow with them. Volkswagen still makes a car with a length of 3.7 meters, called the Up! That’s now an A-class car. There is a wide spread in class sizes and several overlaps. A Honda Civic is also considered C-class, but it’s 4.6 meters in size, considerably larger than the Golf.

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Now let’s get back to the Dolphin. In China, the car is available in two versions and three trim levels. The Free and Fashion trim levels come with a 70 kW motor, the Knight Edition has a much more powerful 130 kW motor and a sporty body kit. All versions have the same 45 kWh Blade battery. The basic Dolphin is 4.12 meters long, the Knight Edition body kit adds 3 cm. Both share a wheelbase of 2.7 meters. In Europe, this car would be B-class, because it’s similarly sized to, for instance, the Volkswagen Polo.

The Euro-Dolphin, however, has a 150 kW motor and a 60 kWh Blade battery. This is the same electric drive train as in the Euro-spec Atto 3. The car also shares the 2.7-meter wheelbase of its Chinese cousin. But when it comes to the length, BYD inflates the Euro-Dolphin to 4.29 meters, almost a 20 cm increase. Most prominent is the new front end, where most of the extra centimeters go, but there is also a thicker rear bumper.

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With this new length, the Euro-Dolphin is longer than a Volkswagen Golf, ID.3, or an MG 4. So suddenly, it has become a C-class car. Why would BYD want to do this?

It could be that the larger battery and different motor necessitate the replacement of some auxiliary components, requiring more space in the front. But actually, I doubt that’s the case here. I think it’s just done for marketing purposes. In China, the Dolphin retails for prices between €15,000 and €20,000 (116,800 – 136,800 yuan). Ad €10,000 or thereabouts, and you get an approximate European selling price. That would place the car at the higher end of the B-Class pricewise.

By stretching the car a little, BYD can market the Dolphin as a C-class vehicle, and then a €25,000 price tag would be very competitive. However, by going up a class, BYD creates more freedom in its pricing strategy. BYD has not released pricing details yet, but the expected retail price is in the €30,000 to €35,000 range, probably closer to the latter number. Seems like a nice extra earner for installing a slightly bigger bumper.

Source: BYD Europe

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  1. Could be for aerodynamic purposes. In Europe, highway speeds tend to be higher. This is likely the reason for the larger motor and battery as well.

    A little more crumple zone might help as well.

    But the added length likely helps perceptually as well. Either way, the wheelbase and useable room between it is still larger than a Golf.

    • well, it won’t sell (unless full specked would be 25k€), so they will eventually have to change the strategy..(when e-polo comes, if not sooner, which would be smarter to get the brand on the roads, even without profit for a couple of years)
      Every brand has cars stockpiling, because they are 30% more expensive than a couple of years ago.. discounts are already starting.

    • I remember seeing BYD’s overseas market manager say in one place that the reason they do not price according to the Chinese market price is to avoid being targeted by local European car companies.
      If BYD Dolphin were priced based on local costs in China, transportation costs, customs clearance fees, and taxes, the selling price would be much lower than Volkswagen ID.3. According to the example of Audi suing NIO for using ES naming (ES7 → EL7), Chinese car companies are seen by European competitors as paying in the ass.
      So, there is a certain reason why BYD chooses to use higher specifications to respond to the European market, but whether consumers buy it or not requires observing the market’s reaction.

  2. don’t understand why a 10k€ surcharge is considered normal for putting cars on ships and bring them to dealers in Europe..
    people read such articles and ask themselves why they must pay so much more as the Chinese buyers for same product..

    • Transportation cost
      Import tariff
      Distributor cost and profit
      Difference in taxes

      These costs seem to add up to €10.000 or so. That’s the minimum difference for China-produced cars, at least as I’ve seen it. Including Tesla Model 3 or Dacia Spring.

  3. It’s much more likely redesigned to meet EWVTA (European Whole Vehicle Type Approval). There may well be some bumper deformity standards to meet for example. One of the challenges to reach Euro ENCAP 5 star will be pedestrian safety. In essence, the pedestrian has to be thrown onto a soft and deformable bonnet, not mown down. By re-shaping the front bumper they’ll achieve that, if they couldn’t before. BYD is unlikely to want to make the changes to try to charge a premium, because ultimately, the lower the price of the entry model, the more they will sell.

    • Yes, that’s BYD’s story line, but I have my reservations. For type approval, I think it’s probably nonsense. There isn’t that much difference between EU and Chinese regulations, as far as I am aware.
      For NCAP purposes there could be some truth in it. These days Euro-NCAP and C-NCAP are much closer than they used to be, but there are some small differences. But even if it’s necessary for pedestrian safety, then it’s probably a convenient excuse. Despite its vast lineup, BYD doesn’t have a proper C-class hatchback in China.

    • In Brazil BYD sell the two models. The European have LFP battery of 60 kWh, most automakers change LFP to NCM batteries in this case, because of the increase of weight (ORA, MG). The chinese version with 45 KWH is 1405 kg and the European 1500 kg! The difference if battery is 89 kg (420 kg vc 321 kg). And the 60 kWh is 1660 kg! With the same battery the euro version is 100 kg heavier than the Chinese version. Why so much? Multi link in euro version is one thing. But I believe that it is to pass in euro ncap maybe there is some structural changes, not only elongated bumpers. I never see the CNCAP for the Chinese version. Meanwhile they sell it in Brazil as an five stars euro ncap, Finally, they are now selling the euro version (with 45 KWH) in China also.


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