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China's BYD launches third EV model in Japan

TOKYO (Reuters) -China's BYD launched its third electric vehicle in Japan, it said on Tuesday, a sedan that will be its most expensive model so far in a market where consumers have long favoured domestic brands.

The Shenzhen-based automaker said it had started taking orders for its flagship Seal EV in Japan from Tuesday, setting the suggested retail pricing for the rear-wheel-drive version of the vehicle in the country at 5.28 million yen ($33,111.75).

The model starts from 179,800 yuan ($24,759.70) in China.

The expansion of BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, in Japan could become a worry for domestic automakers, which are struggling in China against BYD and other Chinese EV brands.

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The automaker has only rolled out battery-powered cars for the Japanese market, but not vehicles with other powertrain technology such as plug-in hybrids, in which it is a big player in China.

BYD's sales in Japan have lost some momentum in April-June compared with last year, BYD Auto Japan president Atsuki Tofukuji said at a Seal launch event in Tokyo's Shibuya district.

A big reduction in the Japanese government electric-vehicle subsidies the company's models qualify for in the business year that started in April put a drag on sales, he told reporters.

The company will offer a rear-wheel-drive and an all-wheel-drive version in Japan that will both come with a 82.56 kilowatt per hour battery pack, the company said in a news release.

The rear-wheel-drive version has a cruising range of 640 km (398 miles), while the 6.05 million yen all-wheel-drive version can drive 575 km on a single charge.

BYD launched the Atto 3 and Dolphin EVs in Japan last year, selling about 2,500 since opening its first Japanese dealership in Yokohama in February 2023.

It said it plans to add at least one new model to its lineup in Japan each year.

($1 = 159.4600 yen)

($1 = 7.2618 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Gerry Doyle)