BYD Gains Ground and the US Races for AI Rules

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The inside story on the Asia tech trends that matter, from Nikkei Asia and the Financial Times. Greetings everyone, this is Cissy from Hong Kong.

Last week, I attended the Japan Mobility Show, where BYD became the first Chinese passenger vehicle maker to participate in Japan’s flagship auto expo, which has traditionally been dominated by local brands.

Wang Chuanfu, the EV maker’s founder, also showed up at the event. I was sitting right behind him during his company’s presser, but he didn’t say a single word the entire time. Even when I whispered questions to him, he just laughed without answering.

Hundreds of people, including Toyota CEO Koji Sato, gathered around BYD’s booth to watch the presentation. Mr. Sato greeted Wang right after it was over.

The president of Sony Honda Mobility was also there, and told me after the presser that he was surprised by how much BYD had improved in the past few years and thought Japanese EV makers should work hard to catch up. It was quite a change from 2017, when he was unimpressed with the company’s offerings at the Shanghai auto show.

Two Japanese auto parts makers also seemed impressed by the automation level of BYD’s factories, with one saying, “No wonder their costs are so low!”

I’m not sure how much automation has to do with BYD’s cost effectiveness, but one big factor is its high level of so-called vertical integration, meaning a majority of components are made in-house. One supplier told me that if BYD can make something cheaper in-house, it will.

BYD flew Chinese workers to Tokyo to maintain its exhibition booth, and even the masks they wore were made in-house.

As it gains momentum in both domestic and overseas markets, BYD could surpass Nissan in overall sales in the fourth quarter of this year, write Nikkei’s Shoya OkinagaSei Matsumoto and Miho Tankai.

China’s largest EV maker sold 824,001 passenger vehicles from July to September, while Nissan, Japan’s third-largest automaker, sold 824,354 vehicles during the same period — a difference of just 353 units.

Cost-competitiveness is one of BYD’s advantages. The company makes core components such as batteries and motors in-house, which not only lowers costs but also boosts the speed with which it can develop new models.

Nissan, meanwhile, has struggled to adapt to change in China. Although the automaker has come out with its own electric models in the country, its sales have been squeezed by competition in a market packed with EV startups. It is also losing Chinese market share for internal combustion engine vehicles, which one Japanese analyst chalked up to a failure to meet customer needs.

BYD is also looking to take on Japanese automakers on their own turf. The Chinese automaker has released two EV models in Japan, and plans to expand its dealership network in the country to 100 locations.

Deal delay

Major mergers for U.S. technology groups are facing another hurdle: convincing Chinese authorities to get on board.

Delays getting sign-off in Beijing forced U.S. chipmaker Broadcom and cloud software company VMware to postpone completion of their $69 billion merger, which had been scheduled to close on Oct. 30, write the Financial Times’ Tim BradshawArash Massoudi and Maxine Kelly in London, Cheng Leng and Qianer Liu in Hong Kong, and Ryan McMorrow in San Francisco.

People close to the situation in China have said geopolitical friction between Washington and Beijing hung over the deal’s approval.

China’s antitrust regulators have empowered themselves to police nearly every global deal by setting the bar very low — annual China revenue of $55 million — for combinations that need to go through its approval process.

For American groups, that review process now includes feedback from China’s foreign ministry and the State Council, which have added to the political calculations that weigh on approvals.

Broadcom and VMware on Oct. 30 said in a joint statement that they maintained their “expectation that Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware would close soon, but in any event prior to the expiration of their merger agreement,” which set a final deadline of Nov. 26.

Go with the fold

Some of China’s leading smartphone makers are betting that a push into Southeast Asia will pave the way for a recovery in sales next year as the return of Huawei heats up competition in their home market, writes Nikkei Asia’s Cheng Ting-Fang.

Oppo held the global launch of two premium foldable smartphones in Singapore last month, the first time in 10 years it had chosen the city-state as its venue for such an event. Oppo has long ranked as the No. 3 smartphone maker in Singapore, and one of the top smartphone makers in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Oppo’s smaller rival Tecno, which has long focused on entry-level models for Africa, has also started making inroads in Southeast Asia by releasing its latest flip foldable smartphone in Singapore and aims to increase its presence throughout the region.

“Why are they betting big on the ASEAN market? The economy in the European market is lukewarm because of the prolonged Ukraine war. In the Middle East, a new geopolitical battle is emerging. In China, the market is too crowded with Huawei coming back. Also, they do not have much opportunity in North America,” said Will Wong, an analyst with market research specialist IDC.

The race for rules

Following earlier moves by both China and the European Union, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a highly anticipated executive order on artificial intelligence on Monday, requiring companies to share reports on safety tests of their AI models with the federal government, writes Nikkei Asia’s Yifan Yu.

Companies training any AI system that “poses a serious risk to national security, national economic security, or national public health and safety” will be required to notify the federal government when training the models and then share safety test results and other critical information with regulators before the models’ release to the public.

The Department of Commerce will play a key role in implementing the executive order. Although the U.S. has lagged when it comes to governing the rapidly developing technology, Biden called the executive order “the most significant action any government anywhere in the world has ever taken on AI safety, security, and trust.”

The European Parliament this year passed the EU AI Act, which must clear a final vote by member countries before becoming law. China has started to implement a set of measures on regulating AI while the country is also set to introduce an AI law.

Source : Nikkei Asia