Truck maker BYD rejects suggestions of espionage

Electric vehicle manufacturer BYD responded to assertions made at a Senate hearing last week that the company could combine technology with ties to the Chinese government to spy on Americans.

Much of the hearing focused on BYD and railcar manufacturer China Railway Rolling Stock Corp. (CRRC), which were singled out as agents of China’s strategy to dominate sectors of U.S. industry by using Chinese government subsidies to undercut contract bids.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, testified that sensor and camera technology installed on electric buses operating in the U.S. like those manufactured by BYD are capable of “spying on passengers and our infrastructure network.”

BYD asserted in a statement emailed to FreightWaves, however, that the company “does not build buses that spy on Americans. It builds buses that meet the specifications of its many transit agency customers around the United States. They are technologically superior to any other product on the market. BYD is driving innovation and partnering with many American start-up ventures in the battle against climate change. It is unfortunate that BYD’s competitors have chosen to use the legislative process to gain a competitive advantage in the market.”

At the hearing, Chinese business strategy expert Emily de La Bruyere stated that both CRRC and BYD “are vehicles of the Chinese state: They receive significant state subsidies, implement Chinese Communist Party international strategy, and directly connect to Beijing’s military apparatus.”

BYD, which also makes electric class 8 trucks — some of which perform drayage operations at California ports — did not address the issue of potential ties to Beijing in its response. The company pointed out, however, that it is a privately owned, publicly traded “global corporation, with nearly 10 percent of its stock held by Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway,” with its North American headquarters in Los Angeles. It confirmed that it employs 750 members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (known as the SMART Union) at its bus and coach manufacturing factory in Lancaster, California.

“We look forward to our continuing efforts to educate Washington policymakers on the benefits to taxpayers of having a vibrant, competitive electric bus marketplace,” the company stated.