WikiLeaks cable shows how Buffet’s BYD electric-car deal could backfire

BYD - Build Your Dreams
BYD - Build Your Dreams

Warren Buffet put $232 million into BYD Co., a Chinese EV manufacturer with aspirations of competing in North America, virtually putting the company on the map.

Diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks raise some serious questions, as BYD is accused of blatantly copying technology and designs, and selling cars at cost to artificially inflate its market share, among other activities.

“While BYD has certainly achieved a measure of success based on a business approach of copying and then modifying car designs just enough to convince Chinese courts that the company has not infringed on patents, it is far less certain that foreign courts will be as sympathetic,” Guangzhou Consul-General Brian Goldbeck wrote in an October 30, 2009 cable that was unclassified but marked for U.S. government eyes only.

BYD America VP Michael Austin defended the company in an email” So where is the true technology and intellectual property? — is it in wrapping of piece of sheet-metal around a car? or is the genius in creating a vehicle with ZERO emissions? Zero, Nada, Zip — no noise, no smell, no smog. A vehicle that does no harm to the environment and can sell in Shenzhen China for $10,800 (after Chinese National and local incentives) — that is genius!”

“No one can match the technology in that. Should ‘they’ be worried, yes. Will ‘they’ complain that ‘Chinese’ cars follow World design trends and follow design best practices? Yes,” Austin said in the email.

A Buffet spokeswoman declined to comment, and said “we do not speak or comment on behalf of BYD.”

– By: Stephen Calogera

Source: Reuters