BYD is one of Chinas’s largest non-government controlled automakers. Wang Chuanfu is chairman of BYD, a company that is 9.9% owned by a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Wang has seen the price, and his net worth, go up and down as the price of the stock he owns fluctuates. According to Forbes, in 2009 Wang was worth $5.8 billion dollars. As of 2012, after an over-expansion and a fire involving an EV car and a fast and furious Nissan GT-R, Wang was said to be worth $2.8 billion.
Stella Li, BYD’s North American Senior Vice President, translated for Chairman Wang. I spoke to Wang and MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.’s David Sokol at the 2009 Detroit auto show. MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. is a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
We were both on a busy schedule and the most time we spent together was when he graciously gave me a ride to the airport because we were both on our way out of Shanghai, me to the United States, him back to Shenzhen. That is when I found out that to some people in China he is still known as Professor, having been a teacher before he struck out on his own. Wang understands a lot more English than he lets on, but prefers an interpreter when he is on record, and prefers to listen, unless he is asked a direct question.
The audio on Stella Li is bad, my apologies. I am not a videographer, but my guys did the best they could to capture the audio because the piece is important, especially as this is the first Chinese car company to bring buses, fleet cars and soon Chinese cars to the United States.
Buffett’s company owns 9.9% of BYD, but around 50% of the outstanding stock is owned by Americans and/or American companies. BYD now employs over 15,000 engineers.
Part of what inspired Buffett to buy part of BYD is the company’s work on capturing and storing electricity. How is that going? Does BYD work with any companies, such as Bosch (who already has Voltwerks for the home storage of electricity) for storing electricity in the home? From a BYD press release I learned that In 2010, BYD donated to Tibet 1,000 sets of household energy storage (HES) systems in remote areas in Tibet. These areas currently have no access to electricity and BYD Human Resource Director Mr. Liu Huanming represented BYD in this significant offering to Tibetan’s Vice President. BYD’s President and Chairman Mr. Wang Chuanfu and BYD share holders – Mr. Warren Buffett, Charles Thomas Munger and Bill Gates were all present at the ceremony.
Currently, BYD is working out all the details of its bus arrangement with the Long Beach Transit company. They will have some time to figure out to distribute cars in the United States, but not much. Are they looking at buying car dealers from Fisker, or collaborating with other car companies?