BYD Opens U.S. Headquarters In Los AngelesBy Danny King October 25, 2011
China-based automaker BYD Co. opened its U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles Monday with promises of bringing 150 new jobs and a new crop of clean vehicles to a city thats always been known for its air pollution and more recently for high unemployment and massive budget shortfalls. As part of the ceremony, BYD displayed the e6 battery-electric SUV it intends to market in the U.S. as well as the 40-passenger, all-electric BYD bus that vehicle-rental company Hertz will use to shuttle passengers at Los Angeles International Airport. The Chinese automaker (BYD is an initialism for Build Your Dreams) opened the rehabbed, 93-year-old, 30,000-square-foot facility at the northern end of Los Angeles' so-called "Figueroa Corridor."
"BYD decided to have Los Angeles as its North American home, and we couldn't be prouder," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (below), speaking at Monday's ceremony. The city provided BYD an incentive package that included tax breaks, guaranteed backing of the companys 10-year lease on the building and about $2 million in federal funds to help pay for the building's renovation. The company is opening its headquarters almost a year later than initially planned. BYD vice president Micheal Austin told AutoObserver it taken longer than expected to revamp the aging building and obtain all necessary permits from the city.
The Figueroa Corridor, just south of downtown Los Angeles, is a business strip that also is home to a quintet of new-car dealerships including Mercedes-Benz dealership Downtown Motors, Nissan of Downtown L.A., Felix Chevrolet and Motor Village L.A. Chrysler and Fiat, but BYD hasnt said whether it will place one of its own showrooms in the neighborhood. The new headquarters, however, will house a prototype showroom for prospective BYD dealers to visit, but wont be open to the public for retail sales.
Reversal Of Fortunes
BYD investors and company executives are hoping the U.S. launch will help reverse a profit plunge resulting from declining China vehicle sales. For the first half of the year, BYD's profit plunged 89 percent from a year earlier to 275 million yuan ($43.1 million) on a combination of rising costs and an 11-percent drop in revenue. Last year, BYD sold 519,800 vehicles, well short of the goal of 800,000 sales the company had set for itself; it sold just 232,400 vehicles during the first half of this year.
BYD Chairman WangChaun-fu said all North American fleet sales for the companys cars and electric-buses will be based out of the Los Angeles facility. "L.A. and Shenzhen (BYDs base in China) are definitely the innovation centers for each of our nations," Wang said. "Mayor Villaraigosa is a visionary leader who set the nation's highest standards for clean energy." Also in attendance at the grand opening were Shenzen Mayor Xu Qin and Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, a major BYD investor with a $232-milllion, 9.9-percent stake in the company where the stock price has fallen by two-thirds since the investment was made.
See 'before' photos of BYD's office, taken in April 2011, on AutoObserver's Facebook page.