Monday, October 25, 2010

Warren Buffett on BYD, Unions and Detroit

Kill It With Fire recently had an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity to attend a Q&A session with Warren Buffet. Among the numerous questions answered by Mr. Buffett were a few about the auto industry. As an aside, Mr. Buffett is an excellent public speaker ready to share many funny stories from his life. Mr. Buffett was also extremely generous with his time as he took individual pictures with every attendee. Back on the automotive front, first was a question about Buffett's recent vote of confidence in BYD amid rumors that he might sell his share. Famous for not investing in companies and industries that he does not understand personally, Buffett nevertheless believes that BYD will succeed. Buffett’s reasons behind his optimism about BYD are not based on the company’s battery expertise but are rather much simpler and fundamental. He sees BYD succeeding because it has an excellent management team lead by its CEO Wang Chuan-Fu. Buffett was initially impressed by Chuan-Fu’s ability to turn BYD into a major player in the auto market in under a decade. He was further impressed by Chuan-Fu’s character during the lengthy purchasing process when Chuan-Fu honored the original contract instead of looking for a loophole to void the deal even though his company’s value had gone up fivefold.

Buffett also touched upon the future of Detroit. He likened its demise to that of New England textile mills that lost out to union free Southern states. Buffett eventually sees the area shifting its lost jobs towards other industries, but does not see Detroit returning to its former glory years.

And for those wondering, the world’s third richest man’s daily driver is a gold Cadillac DTS.

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