Because they are bigger and heavier like trucks, SUVs are treated more leniently by government rules on fuel efficiency and emissions. That makes them less expensive to produce and helps automakers that are less technologically advanced than foreign rivals.
Great Wall has become the Chinese industry’s breakout success on the strength of its SUVs.
The company, headquartered in Baoding, an industrial city southwest of Beijing, said SUV sales in the first three months of the year rose 95 percent over a year earlier and accounted for half the 180,000 vehicles it sold.
That gave Great Wall, at least temporarily, the global auto industry’s fattest gross profit margin at 28 percent, according to Bernstein Research analyst Max Warburton.
With its electric car business sagging, BYD is stepping up emphasis on SUVs. In addition to the S6 and S7, it has two more on the drawing board.
The company, in which Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Corp. owns a 10 percent stake, blamed intense competition for a 94 percent plunge in last year’s profit last year.
BYD expects to double this year’s S6 sales in foreign markets such as Russia and Egypt to 50,000 vehicles, said Ho, the export director.
‘‘The SUV market has a big attraction in Russia, Ukraine, the Middle East. They want a four-wheel-drive for the snow and sand,’’ he said.
The company also is developing four-wheel-drive technology that powers two wheels with an internal combustion engine and two with an electric motor, eliminating the need for a drive train that takes up floor space, Ho said. He said the electric motors also will act as brakes.
‘‘This is going to be a unique approach to four-wheel-drive,’’ he said.