Chinese electric carmaker to settle in downtown LA

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa outside L.A. City Hall during a press conference announcing Chinese car maker BYD is going to put its corporate headquarters in Los Angeles.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa outside L.A. City Hall during a press conference announcing Chinese car maker BYD is going to put its corporate headquarters in Los Angeles. Shirley Jahad/KPCC

A Chinese electric carmaker announced today plans to put its North American headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.

The move by BYD Co. is expected to create at least 150 -- and possibly more than 1,000 -- jobs over the next two years

"By bringing global alternative energy to Los Angeles, we are securing our future and building the foundation for an emerging industry that will attract good-paying, green collar jobs for generations of Angelenos,'' Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a news conference at City Hall this morning.

BYD, which stands for "Build Your Dreams,'' pairs electric motors with traditional internal combustion engines in its cars. It will set up shop at 1800 S. Figueroa, near Staples Center, an area where the city has invested redevelopment funds to help create jobs.

It plans to hire 150 workers throughout 2010 and 2011 as it rolls out its fleet of vehicles, initially to California markets and eventually throughout the country.

"Those 150 jobs will create more than 1,000 jobs in our community,'' said First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner, who is also DWP interim general manager. "(BYD) sells products, those products have to be installed, they have to serviced, there's a whole universe of technicians and service people who will also find their jobs because of BYD.''

Beutner said convincing BYD to settle in Los Angeles was a coup, accomplished with various incentives. These include a proposed reduction in the tariff on zero-emissions vehicles and parts that come through the Port of Los Angeles, and a promise that the DWP will install a charging station for anyone who buys an electric car within a week of their purchase.

"BYD's move to Los Angeles should send a loud message to businesses overseas and innovative, growing businesses across the country that Los Angeles will do what it takes to win their business,'' Beutner said.

Through an interpreter, BYD Chairman Chuanfu Wang said the incentives were ``hard to refuse.''

"Here's a good example of how companies are coming to California because of our energy policy,'' Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said. ``What is good for the environment is also good for the economy.''

"I welcome BYD with open arms and look forward to growing California's relationship with China to mutually benefit the environment and economy,'' he added.

BYD, which has financial backing from billionaire Warrent Buffet, is the fast automotive manufacturer in China.

It sold nearly 450,000 vehicles in 2009, up 170 percent from a year earlier. This year, it expects to sell 700,000 vehicles across the world.

BYD, which started out making cellphone batteries, introduced its F3DM model car in 2008, which became China's first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle. It plans to launch the e6, a pure electric vehicle with a range of more than 200 miles, soon.

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