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China’s Elon Musk Is Ready for His Star Turn

BYD chief Wang Chuanfu’s bet on electric vehicles is already paying off.
A vehicle in an acoustics testing lab at BYD Co. headquarters in Shenzhen, China, on Sept. 21, 2017.

A vehicle in an acoustics testing lab at BYD Co. headquarters in Shenzhen, China, on Sept. 21, 2017.

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
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For decades, financial pundits in China have been placing Wang Chuanfu, the visionary green technology entrepreneur and chief executive officer of battery and electric vehicle maker BYD Co., at the doorstep of the pantheon of industrialists who dominate the global automotive industry. Nine years ago, mega-investor Warren Buffett took a 10 percent stake in BYD. But gasoline-powered vehicles continued their dominance in China and worldwide, leaving Wang in the shadow of auto chieftains such as Renault’s Carlos Ghosn, General Motors’ Mary Barra, and Volkswagen’s Matthias Müller.

Now, 22 years after he founded the company, Wang may finally be proved right. BYD’s shares are back to stratospheric levels as investors bet new environmental rules in China will supercharge sales at BYD, which has grown into China’s largest seller of electric vehicles. The government said in September it’s working on a timetable for ending the production and sale of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles on the mainland and unveiled a cap-and-trade program that would force makers of gasoline-powered cars to buy credits from electric vehicle makers or step up their own efforts to make such vehicles. Either outcome could be a bonanza for BYD.