(Bloomberg) -- BYD Co. is mulling the purchase of lithium mining assets in Brazil as it seeks to lock in raw-material supplies to expand its electric car production outside Asia.

The Chinese company’s new EV factory in Brazil will include a unit to process lithium and iron phosphate for the international market and BYD hopes it will be able to finish work in less than two years, according to Stella Li, BYD’s global vice-president. 

“We prefer to buy any available and affordable resource, but it needs to be competitive. At the same time, BYD also prefers to own some mining operations in Brazil,” Li said at an interview in Sao Paulo. 

Latin America has emerged as a hot spot for carmakers seeking to tap metals used in electric vehicles as the industry shifts from fossil fuels. 

Stellantis NV and miner Rio Tinto Group are upping their investments in a giant copper deposit in Argentina, while Ford Motor Co. recently closed an agreement with Chile’s lithium producer SQM. 

Li is part of a delegation of BYD executives that toured Latin America, including the company’s chairman and founder Wang Chuanfu. In Chile — the nation with the world’s largest reserves of lithium — Wang met President Gabriel Boric to discuss accelerating electrification and developing the local lithium industry.

In Brazil’s northeast, BYD will invest 3 billion reais ($594 million) to build its first electric-car plant outside Asia and plans a research and development center to advance technologies for a flex-fuel hybrid engine. Its Chinese competitor Great Wall Motor Co. plans to start making its first pre-series EV models in the country in May of next year.

“We are gonna build up this plant fast,” said Li. “We need to make sure in the future all cars we sell here are 100% produced here. BYD will become like a Brazilian company.”

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