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BYD was originally founded as a firm making batteries in 1995, before branching out into automotive manufacture in 2003 through acquiring Shaanxi Qinchuan. The initials stand for Build Your Dreams, though its initial models were hardly the stuff that dreams were made of. While BYD claims its designs are original, there is a strong resemblance to Toyota models, especially in the shape of the doors; while its S8 convertible model takes its styling cues from Mercedes-Benz. Unsurprisingly, there was criticism from the west about the apparent piracy, especially of BYD’s F0 model.

BYD, however, became known for producing the world’s first plug-in hybrid car years before GM could get a single Chevrolet Volt on to the streets, and received a 10 per cent investment from US investment firm Berkshire Hathaway in 2008. Volkswagen is the latest of its suitors: in 2009, it signed a partnership agreement with the Chinese firm to explore electric-vehicle technology.

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