No Chinese automaker remains quite as enigmatic as BYD. The battery maker-turned-carbuilder made a splash four years ago with ambitious plans to sell plug-in hybrids in the United States, winning a vote of confidence from investor Warren Buffet who took a 10 percent stake in the firm. Since then, BYD plans have dimmed; the company brought over a few vehicles for fleet testing, but sales in China have been slow for all of its models. To lure Chinese shoppers in, BYD has turned to pioneering a different technology: remote-control driving, a first for a car that didn't come in a cardboard box.
The BYD Su Rui comes with a large key fob featuring a metal control panel which can be used to start and move the car from a distance of 10 meters. BYD says the Su Rui can only creep along at 1.2 mph in remote control mode, but otherwise steers and moves -- including in reverse -- as it would if the owner was behind the wheel. BYD advertises the technology as great for parking in tight spots or bringing the car to you in rainy weather, and far more impressive to your date than opening an umbrella.
Outside of its remote control, the Su Rui offers a few other tricks, including in-dash digital TV and multihue displays, and most of its specs and technology match up well with similar models from Asian or American automakers. By one metric, the Su Rui excels: in China, prices run from $10,000 to $15,000, within reach of the younger urbanites most in demand in China. BYD has said it still plans to eventually launch its electric vehicles in the United States -- but the remote-control Su Rui suggests a different path that could give American shoppers a jolt.