BYD's California factory rolls out first electric buses
State governor Jerry Brown hails investment by Chinese carmaker as Toyota moves to Texas
BYD, the Chinese carmaker partly owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, rolled out the first two electric buses from its factory in California on Monday as it pushes into the United States and Canadian markets.
The 12-metre long battery-powered vehicles were delivered to the Antelope Valley Transit Authority in Los Angeles County, where BYD has its US headquarters in the city of Lancaster.
"BYD is the harbinger of things to come," said California governor Jerry Brown, who led a trade mission to China in April last year and toured the BYD factory on Monday. "This is the great dream."
Brown's visit came on the day that Japan's Toyota Motor Corp said it would move about 2,000 people from its US sales base in Torrance, California, to a new North American headquarters in Dallas.
Brown, a 76-year-old Democrat, is seeking re-election against Republicans who have said California's high taxes and strict regulations push businesses out of the state. The move is a blow to the state, the biggest US car market and proponent of the strictest clean-air rules.
BYD Motors, which employs 60 people at its plant, expected its payroll to reach 100 by the end of this year and grow to 200 next year, chief executive Stella Li said.
The Lancaster factory had orders from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said Michael Austin, a vice-president of BYD's US unit.
Its buses are being evaluated by Ottawa, Montreal, New York and the Los Angeles Transportation Department.
BYD is the world's largest producer of electric buses, having manufactured more than 1,300 such vehicles, according to a company statement.
BYD planned to make 200 buses annually by the end of next year, Austin said earlier this month at the Beijing motor show.
Besides buses, BYD planned to introduce four passenger car models for its US debut at the end of next year, Li said in January.
Although BYD was not ready when it earlier sought to enter the US car market in 2010, the company was more prepared this time, she said.
BYD has revived plans to sell new stock equivalent to as much as 20 per cent of its Hong Kong-traded shares, people familiar with the matter said last month. The company had submitted an application with the China Securities Regulatory Commission, they said.
The funds would give the company room to step up investments and bolster production of electric cars and buses. Selling shares would also help alleviate the strain on a balance sheet that has seen net debt surge last year to a record.