NAMING of the BYD Atto 3 as New Zealand Car of the Year stands as an affirmation of China’s emergence as a powerhouse maker of electric cars, most for everyday motorists.
In announcing the compact fully-electric compact five-seater as 35th winner of its annual award, the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild believes its COTY is a global first for the ‘Build Your Dreams’ brand.
“Atto 3 has won category awards, including in this country, but our award appears to be the maiden national car of the year for this model and for BYD,” says Guild president Richard Bosselman.
“Securing the country’s most prestigious, longest-running, and important industry award is huge, but this is particularly special recognition.
“NZ was one of BYD’s first export destinations – the brand was little known, Atto 3 is their only car here and has been on sale for less than a year.
“For it to have made such a powerful impact so immediately is quite something.”
Atto 3’s affordability was a factor recognised by the judges when determining it to be the best of 12 high-quality finalists, all chosen from a much broader count of product released nationally over the past calendar year.
“Atto 3 resonates as a product competing for the attention of budget-minded buyers through offering good range from an advanced battery,” Bosselman says.
“The Guild also recognises it as a solidly-engineered car, offering good technologies and an interesting styling approach.”
In two specifications respectively pricing at just over $50,000 and just under $54,000 when the Government’s Clean Car rebate is applied, Atto 3 is in a lower spending band than the three previous electric cars honoured by the Peter Greenslade Trophy.
That’s a reminder of how bullish China’s electric car industry is, Bosselman says.
“The EV sector moves at a rapid pace and this year NZ will see some exciting new product from other global involvers, but China remains one to watch.
“Adoption of ‘new-energy vehicles’ is a domestic priority and an increasing count of makers there are exporting.
“BYD has enjoyed colossal growth and reaped spectacular rewards. It was the world’s biggest seller of battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in 2022 with a total of 1.86 million sales – the vast majority in China. It was well ahead of top rival, Tesla.”
The brand itself only founded in 1995, to make batteries for consumer electronics then branched into car production in 2002.
Key to BYD’s success has been its battery technology – known as the ‘blade’ due to the long, thin shape – which uses only lithium, iron and phosphate, materials that are all abundant in the Earth’s crust, while avoiding controversial metals such as cobalt and nickel.
“BYD Auto New Zealand is incredibly proud to receive this award,” says Warren Willmot, national brand manager.
“Our customers have taken a leap of faith with a new brand, of which most of wouldn’t have heard of seven months ago. This award cements their purchasing decision was in line with expert opinions.”
The car’s acceptance of over-the-air software updates ensures it “will get better the longer you own the vehicle. Every update brings new features and refinement. Our early customers have all now received their Vehicle to Load adapters (free with every car) and our BYD App is due to roll out shortly.
“Every BYD Atto 3 on the road potentially replaces an internal combustion engine vehicle, moving us towards a Greener future and BYD’s ultimate global goal of cooling the Earth by one degree.”
Judges considered how a vehicle performs its intended role; its styling, interior design and accommodation; fit, finish and quality; ride and refinement; performance; road-holding and handling; value for money; active and passive safety and environmental responsibility.
Also in the hunt were the BMW iX, Ford Everest, Hyundai i20 N, Kia EV6 and Kia Sportage, Lexus NX, Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Mitsubishi Outlander, Polestar 2 and Tesla Model Y.
Said Bosselman: “That we elected to consider 12 finalists for the 2022 award rather than the usual top 10 says much. There is one winner, but my sentiment is there were no poor choices.”
The award is open to all passenger vehicles launched over a 12-month period. Finalists required evaluation on a full road test by more than two-thirds of the 20 voting members.
The Peter Greenslade Trophy recognizes the memory and contribution of the late Peter Greenslade, a highly respected New Zealand motoring writer.
Feature image: Warren Willmot, brand manager BYD Auto New Zealand, with the Peter Greenslade Trophy, the New Zealand Car of the Year award, decided annually by the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild.