MEXICO CITY, May 15 — Chinese automaker BYD unveiled the Shark, a mid-size hybrid-electric pickup truck, in Mexico on Tuesday, as its regional chief brushed off new US tariff hikes on Chinese EVs, saying the company was not eyeing an entry to the US market.

The Shark strengthens BYD’s foothold in the North American market with a vehicle aimed directly at incumbents Ford, General Motors and Toyota.

It is for now only available in Mexico, executives said, and is the first time the world’s largest electric-vehicle (EV) maker has launched a new product outside its home country.

BYD chose Mexico because of the rapid growth in demand for pickup trucks in the country, Chief of Americas Stella Li said.

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The unveiling event in Mexico came hours after US President Joe Biden announced steep tariff increases on an array of Chinese imports, citing unfair competitive practices. Duties on Chinese EVs were quadrupled to over 100 per cent.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai later said that the United States is weighing tariffs on imports from Mexico.

In an interview with Reuters after the event, Li said the US tariff hikes have no impact on BYD, which plans to build a plant in Mexico.

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“We don’t have plans to go to the US market, so this announcement does not impact us at all,” Li said.

“When we build a Mexican plant, we only consider the Mexican market and other countries’ markets, we have not considered the US,” she added.

There is now a shortlist of potential sites for BYD’s plant in Mexico, Li said, adding it will be centrally-located in the Latin American country.

A “deeper dialogue” was needed to make the final decision, Li said, which was expected to come by the end of the year.

The plant, which will have a capacity of 150,000 vehicles per year, will take two to three years to finish, Li added.

Growing presence

The presence of Chinese automakers in Mexico has grown exponentially since 2017. One out of 10 cars sold in Mexico last year was from a Chinese automaker, with MG Motors, a unit of SAIC, dominating nearly half the market.

Reuters exclusively reported last month that Mexico’s federal government, under pressure from the US in keeping Chinese automakers at arm’s length by refusing to offer such incentives as low-cost public land or tax cuts for investment in EV production.

Li said BYD has not yet discussed incentives with Mexico’s federal government, citing the busy period ahead of the country’s elections in June. She did not share details on incentives BYD would be seeking from the federal government or individual states.

“I think all the states will try their best to give a best offer to attract us because we will be bringing a lot of technology there and create a lot of local jobs,” Li said. “Every state, and even the central government, would love this kind of investment.”

BYD’s Shark will go head-to-head in Mexico with compact and medium-sized trucks such as the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger. It is, however, costlier thanmost makes of both of the competing vehicles with a starting price of 899,980 pesos (US$53,442.68) for the Shark GL and 969,800 pesos (US$57,588.73) for the premium Shark GS.

The Shark can travel up to 100 km (62 miles) in EV mode before needing to be recharged, BYD said, and up to 840 km using both electric and combustion methods.

The pickup consumes 7.5 liters of fuel per 100 km (31.4 mpg) traveled, the brochure detailed. — Reuters