Los Angeles Business Journal

BYD Supporters Defend Bus Maker

By Business Journal Staff Friday, December 13, 2013

Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer BYD Co. Ltd. held a press conference on Friday to further defend itself from allegations it did not comply with minimum wage laws for engineers working at its Lancaster plant and North American headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.

The conference, held by phone, was led by Lanny J. Davis, principal of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, a Washington, D.C. firm specializes in crisis management that represented President Clinton for two years during his presidency.

BYD, based in Shenzhen, is a high profile company in which Warren Buffet has a roughly 10 percent stake. Its BYD Coach & Bus LLC subsidiary opened its Lancaster plant in May and its BYD Motors Inc. opened offices in Los Angeles 2010 as the company’s North American headquarters.

The press conference featured high-profile company supporters, including L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris and Ruben Gonzalez, a vice president with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

The state Department of Industrial Relations began investigating BYD in late October and cited the company for not paying minimum wage nor providing worker’s compensation insurance, failure to provide itemized wage statements and not giving a second brief rest break. The department has already levied $99,245 in fines against the company.

But Davis said five engineers had come from China to work in the California locations for about six months. They were paid between $12 an hour and $16 an hour, which is higher than the $8 an hour required in California.

Two of the engineers have already left the U.S. and the remaining three will leave at the end of December, he added.

Attempts to reach a representative of the industrial relations department to find the status of the investigation were not successful.

The company has contracts to manufacture 25 buses for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, two buses to the Antelope Valley Transit Authority, and 10 buses to Long Beach Transit.

Its Lancaster plant is seen by Antelope Valley officials as economic boost. A total of 35 total employees, including 21 U.S. citizens, work at the plant and U.S. headquarters, according to Davis.