But Wang remains a figure of interest to the auto industry, both for his global approach to auto sales and the speed of the business.
BYD became the first company to produce electrified vehicles in China in 2008 when it launched a plug-in hybrid. Its first EV model, the e6 compact multi-purpose vehicle, followed two years later.
Over the next decade, it still had to rely largely on gasoline cars for sales, but BYD steadily expanded its lineup of electrified vehicles by creating plug-in hybrid and EV variants of its gasoline models.
In 2021, its electrified vehicles will not only overtake its gasoline cars for the first time but also become the main driver of its sales growth. And last year, the company stopped producing gasoline cars to focus on producing EV and plug-in hybrid models.
BYD sold 911,140 full electric vehicles last year, an increase of 184 percent, and 946,239 plug-in hybrids, a jump of 247 percent. For the first quarter of 2023, sales of electrified vehicles were projected to increase by 93 percent.
Five years ago, Warren Buffett told CNBC that he would like to take credit for the idea to invest in BYD, but it was his longtime partner and vice chairman Charlie Munger who pushed him to do so. Munger himself told analysts that his bet for BYD was based on one person: Wang Chuanfu.
According to filings by Munger and BYD to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Wang was raised by his siblings, who paid for him to attend college and receive an education in metallurgy. He founded BYD in Shenzhen, China to develop rechargeable batteries after running the battery development unit for the state-owned Metallurgy Research Institute in Beijing. Within three years, BYD had become one of the world’s largest rechargeable battery suppliers.
In 2003, the battery company began manufacturing mobile phone parts. And just two years later, the company began selling its first vehicle, a compact gasoline sedan called the F3. Two years after that, the F3 would become the best-selling model produced by a domestic Chinese carmaker.
Munger, who is also the president of the California Newspaper Company, Daily Journal Corp.said at its 2009 annual meeting that he was amazed by Wang’s ability to build BYD from ground zero into a major global supplier of rechargeable batteries and mobile phone components in rapid succession.
“And then, finally, not satisfied with a few miracles, Wang Chuanfu decided he would go into the automobile business. As far as I can tell, it was zero experience in automobiles. And from zero and a lot from a sustainable start With little capital, he was able to rapidly build the single best-selling model in China,” he told his audience.
“This is not some unproven, highly speculative activity,” he said. “What is this, a damn miracle.”
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