This year has seen the automotive world dominated by electric vehicles such as those produced by Nissan, Mitsubishi and Chevrolet, so it's been easy to forget that one company which generated a lot of buzz last year has been very quiet.
The name in question is Chinese manufacturer BYD, which announced with some fanfare back in May 2010 that it was setting up shop in California, but has been very quiet in recent months.
At January's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, a spokesman for the firm told AFP that it was delaying the launch of its E6 all-electic sedan after realizing that it wasn't ready for the US market.
The company, backed by Warren Buffett, then admitted a significant slump in 2010 sales in March, despite producing the best-selling car in China, the gasoline-powered F6.
However, it's been quietly testing its E6 electric vehicle on the streets of Shenzhen for some time, and this week, the rest of the world got an idea of what it will be like to drive one, courtesy of the China Car Times' Mark Andrews.
In an test drive at BYD's factory, Andrews reported that the "engineering side of the car obviously works," adding that the handling was "adequate" and the ride was "smooth enough" - although the positives seemed to end there.
Acceleration around BYD's track was reportedly "sluggish" (although the car was operating in a power-saving 'eco' mode), and Andrews added that there was a big question mark over the safety level of the vehicle as it currently contains only two airbags.
The poor build quality of the interior was also criticized, although the author noted that current versions of the E6 should really be seen as prototypes rather than production models.
Nevertheless, as the E6 will be expected to compete with models such as the Leaf and Volt, both fairly well polished to ensure they appeal to as broad a market as possible, Andrews concludes that BYD have "some way to go" with the model.
Fortunately, this may well be old news to BYD, which as it readies itself for the delayed launch to US customers next year, is emphasising that it's aware of the challenges it faces in winning over the tough market.
"We're in no rush to launch bad vehicles in the US market," said one of the firm's executives told reporters on the sidelines of the show in January.
"We want to get it right."
Read the full review: http://www.chinacartimes.com/2011/04/08/byd-e6-review/