Unless you live in China, there’s a good chance you’ve never even heard of the world’s biggest electric-vehicle maker. It’s run by a former battery engineer who stays under the radar. Its cars aren’t for sale in most of the world’s biggest vehicle markets. And the company’s name—BYD—is quite literally a random sequence of meaningless letters, reportedly chosen when the company was formed two-and-a-half decades ago, so that its listing would end up in the front of the phone book. (The company now says it stands for “Build Your Dreams.”)
Before it started making electric cars, BYD was already one of most important players making gasoline-powered vehicles. In the late 2000s, it accounted for about 5% of China’s total car market. And the company has grown a lot since then. Wang Chuanfu, the engineer who founded BYD in Shenzhen in 1995, is now one of the wealthiest people in China, worth some $5 billion.
The automaker’s pivot to electrics was, by many measures, a massive success: BYD has been manufacturing and selling more EVs than any other company in the world for the last few years.