In a move that echoes Honda and Toyota first steps into the US in the 1950s, BYD, the Chinese car and battery maker backed by Warren Buffett, has opened its first office in the US employing 150 engineers and management staff.

The new offices in Los Angeles will also serve as the headquarters for BYD dealerships although the company has not yet confirmed when it expects to start selling cars in America.

"BYD looks forward to entering the US consumer market, though a launch date has not yet been set. Fleet trials of BYD's cars in Los Angeles began in December last year and the first electric bus trials are beginning this month," said Micheal Austin, vice president of BYD America.

But it will have an electric shuttle bus in operation. Hertz will use a BYD bus to shuttle rental car customers at LA's international airport.The BYD eBUS-12 can run for about 155 miles on a single charge in urban conditions, BYD said.

Meanwhile in China, BYD has launched its e6 electric car to retail customers in Shenzhen.

The e6, charged by BYD's Fe battery, can run about 186 miles on a single charge in urban conditions, according to BYD, considerably further than the 100-mile range of Nissan's Leaf.

The e6 is priced at CNY369,800 (US$58,200), but residents in the southern China city are eligible for government subsidies up to CNY120,000 yuan, but that still leaves the sticker price at around $39,000.

But it seems that customers are not keen on electric cars - only 10 have been registered in Shanghai and 25 in Hangzhou. However, BYD has delivered 350 e6 models to a taxi operator in Shenzhen and is expected next year to roll out its first electric car developed in conjunction with Daimler as part of a CNY600m joint venture.