Wang Chuanfu (BYD) Demonstrating Priorities With A Key



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BYD started it’s life in 1995 as a rechargeable battery manufacturer competing with the Japanese. By 2000 the company got into the market for mobile phones and has since gathered 50% of the market.

When BYD branched out into the automotive market in 2002 - with the acquisition of Tsinchuan Automobile Co Ltd. and a year later the creation of BYD Automobile Co LTD. - the organization had zero automobile experience. So what did Wang Chaunfu do to change that? He shamelessly stole the best ideas from everyone else.

Wang Chuanfu purchased a number of new vehicles that were selling on the market, including luxury autos from BMW, Porsche, etc. When they arrived at the company, he instructed a group of young newly hired engineers (those who were straight out of university) to disassemble and reverse engineer each vehicle’s design. He thought this would be the fastest and cheapest way for his engineers to learn.

But first, those young engineers were hesitant to disassemble cars owned by the CEO, especially the famous luxury brands. Think of the cognitive dissonance these young people faced. China is a filial piety society where the young have to respect their elders. Their CEO tells them to destroy his property and to add to it, some of the models are sought after, expensive brands. They would be committing sacrilege.

This was a perfect time for Wang Chuanfu to demonstrate to his engineers, and to other employees, the priorities of BYD’s culture. In front of his employees, he said nothing. He chose to scratch one of the most expensive models with a key. He then said, “Now you can take apart my car.” He set a precedent not too different, without words, than the one found at Facebook “move fast and break things.”

The engineers got the message and worked tirelessly to take the best ideas. This led to the design of the BYD F3 launched in 2005 and has been one of the best selling cars in China due to its high quality and low price. The “move fast and break things” mentality is also the way BYD has continued to improve their vehicle designs and become the top selling manufacturers of plug-in hybrids in the world.

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