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Samsung takes stake in Chinese electric-car maker BYD, joining Warren Buffett

BYD Qin EV300

As cars come to rely increasingly on electronic systems, non-traditional companies are making forays into the car business.
Google continues to develop its autonomous-driving technology, and there are myriad rumors that Apple is developing an entire car of its own.
Vacuum-cleaner producer Dyson bought solid-state battery maker Sakti3, and has dropped hints about car plans.
The latest company to join that cadre is Korean electronics giant Samsung, which has taken a stake in Chinese carmaker BYD.
Samsung is set to pay 3 billion yuan ($450 million) for a 1.92-percent stake in BYD, which will make it the company's ninth-largest investor, according to Reuters.
The investment is being made through a Chinese subsidiary of Samsung called Shanghai Semiconductor.
BYD—which is also backed by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway—produced more plug-in electric cars than any other company last year.
According to company records, it sold 61,772 electric cars and plug-in hybrids last year, all but a handful in China.
Sales were helped by generous government incentives in BYD's home country.
Many of the cars sold were plug-in hybrids, however, which—given China's sparse charging infrastructure—may not actually get plugged in all that much.
In March, BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu said the company could triple its sales of plug-in cars this year.
BYD has made some attempts to sell both electric cars and electric buses in the U.S., and has achieved some success with the latter.
Samsung did not say what it hopes to get out of its investment in BYD, but the company does have some automotive experience.
Its Samsung SDI division supplies lithium-ion battery cells to carmakers, and has a contract to supply cells for the all-electric Audi SUV due in 2018.
Samsung also previously established its own car division, which it later sold to Renault.
The French firm still sells cars under the Renault-Samsung brand name in South Korea, including the electric Fluence ZE sedan that has been discontinued in its home market.
Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway invested in BYD back in November 2008, paying $230 million for a 10-percent stake in the company.
In comparison, Samsung paid roughly twice that amount for a stake one-fifth the size.