Wang Chuanfu, the founder of Chinese automaker BYD, has become a big name in the automobile industry. BYD is quickly gaining on Elon Musk’s Tesla in the electric vehicle (EV) space to be the number 1. But now, a report in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has said that Mr Wang drank a glass full of battery fluid to impress a member of investor Warren Buffet’s team, who had reached Shenzhen to check if the company is worth investing in.
BYD – short for ‘Build Your Dreams’ – first launched as a battery maker in the 1995 but in 2003, pivoted from being the world’s largest manufacturer of rechargeable mobile phone batteries to the automotive sector.
The company is now on track to beat Tesla in terms of vehicle sales, as per Financial Times (FT). In July, Forbes even reported that BYD’s stock jumped 90 per cent despite the ongoing Covid-19 cases in the country as he raked in US $7 billion. His personal wealth is valued at over US $25 billion, which makes him currently the 22nd richest person in China, per FT.
In the automobile business, he replicated the way he made batteries to keep costs down. Mr Wang’s business model attracted the attention of Mr Buffet and in 2008, he sent one of his aides David Sokol to Shenzhen to check out BYD.
Mr Wang saw an opportunity to expand to other markets, like the US, and took the visitor through his factories.
At one point during the tour, while trying to impress Mr Sokol about how BYD’s batteries were safe for environment, poured himself a glass of battery fluid and took a sip, the WSJ said in its report.
The mixture did not taste good and the US businessman declined the offer to try it.
In September that year, Mr Buffet-owned Berkshire Hathaway bought a 10 per cent stake in BYD for $232 million via its energy unit.
Mr Wang, born in 1966 in Anhui province, was raised by older siblings after both his parents died.