It was the biggest deal Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pulled off in his desperate effort to show he was actually doing something about the city’s staggering unemployment rate and its loss of economic clout.
With $2 million in federal poverty grants and nearly $3 million in loans guaranteed from funds intended to revive blighted neighborhoods, the mayor two years ago proudly boasted LA had beaten out other cities to become the home of BYD, the Chinese electric car and battery maker that was invading America with a massive investment from Warren Buffett.
“It means more job opportunities but it also sends a powerful message to other companies that L.A. is the place to do business,” the mayor proclaimed when BYD opened it headquarters on Figueroa, a few blocks from LA Live, last October.
“We see BYD’s Los Angeles opening as a catalyst that will usher in good jobs, global investment and a more sustainable future.”
The city even promised to install home charging stations within a week and saw hopes for a local assembly plant as sales of BYD’s all-electric cars soared and to use terminals at LAX and exhibition space at the Convention Center to show the vehicles.
But like the million trees, greenest city in America, the high-tech corridor and everything else the nationally celebrated “Latino” leader has said these last six years, it was all hot air.
BYD opened a year late with a skeleton crew of 20, not the 150 it was supposed to hire initially and has not sold any of its E6 all-electric cars — one of which burst into flames, killing three people in China on Sunday.
“Build Your Dreams” stock is down nearly in half this year as sales in China plunged, down nearly 20 percent last month even as nearly 20 percent more cars were being sold in China.
And Wang Chuanfu, BYD’s founder and chairman who was celebrated as a hero by the city officials and business leaders last year, now doesn’t even see a future of his all-electric car.
“BYD now accepts that the future of the auto industry is more likely to lie in hybrid gasoline-electric cars, a technology in which it lags Japanese manufacturers, and not in all-electric cars, which still face issues of battery range and recharging time,” the New York Times reports today.
The only BYD vehicles on LA’s city streets are 10 older model sedans, not the E6 which is a bust, which were bought by the criminally corrupt Housing Authority and an electric shuttle bus used by Hertz.
“Things like this are about planting seeds. Some grow fast,” Austin Beutner, the former deputy mayor and architect of the BYD told Neon Tommy’s Zhao Yang two months ago.
And some shrivel up and die like the BYD deal that will never produce any return on the city’s investment.
It shouldn’t be a mystery that you can’t buy jobs with tax holidays, subsidies and rebates as the loss of nearly 100,000 jobs in the city even as the population grew by one million shows.
What City Hall has done over the last 30 years with its giveaways is grow poverty while letting the infrastructure rot to the point that we will never have enough money to fix the roads and sidewalks and pipes.
BYD is just another in a long line of busted dreams, just another symbol of the failure of leadership and why LA is a city in decline.