Newsom Praises Chinese EV Company That Botched Taxpayer-Funded Contracts in California

California governor in China for climate collaboration

California governor Gavin Newsom and Chinese president Xi Jinping (
October 26, 2023

California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) on Tuesday heaped praise on a Chinese electric vehicle company with a history of botched taxpayer-funded contracts in his state.

The governor, who is on a week-long tour of Hong Kong and China to promote "climate" collaboration with Chinese Communist Party officials, touted a $150,000 self-driving hybrid SUV manufactured by Chinese company Build Your Dreams (BYD) Motors. That same company flubbed a $1 billion contract for COVID-19 masks and supplied Los Angeles with unreliable million-dollar electric buses.

"I want two," Newsom said of the luxury SUV, when asked by a Chinese reporter if he wanted to take one back with him to Sacramento. The exchange was recorded in a TikTok video posted by Frontline Focus, a CCP-controlled media account. In the clip, the governor lauds the SUV as a "next-level leap" in technology and says, "We got to get these in the States"—suggesting that he wil discuss the matter further.

Newsom's accolades for BYD's technological prowess seemed to belie the CCP-linked company's record in California, which includes a failure to deliver on a massive COVID-19 mask order and supplying faulty buses to the state's largest city—all while reaping millions of dollars in tax credits and other subsidies.

"Outside of the experience that our governor has already had with this company, it's a company with direct ties to the CCP and we should all have a problem with that," said Jessica Millan Patterson, the chairwoman of the California Republican Party.

Newsom in April 2020 awarded BYD a $1 billion no-bid COVID-19 contract through its medical manufacturing arm, launched in the early days of the pandemic. The governor touted the deal as a way to supply California with 200 million masks per month, but refused to show legislators the contract details. BYD missed early delivery deadlines and failed its initial federal certification vetting. Moreover, the state's payment of $3.30 per N95 mask was four times more than the 79 cents that Los Angeles paid for similar supplies from a U.S.-based company. Yet just a few months later, Newsom re-upped the BYD contract with a $315.6 million mask order.

The company's record on electrifying California fleets is also mixed, even after BYD drew millions from state taxpayers. In just a decade, the corporation gleaned some $330 million in grants, subsidies, and contracts from Southern California agencies within a decade of launching a lobbying blitz in 2008.

Yet Los Angeles had to decommission the first five BYD electric buses because of poor performance. Other buses from the company stalled out, had trouble climbing hills in downtown L.A., and were otherwise unreliable while also requiring extra maintenance. Today, the L.A. Metro's electric buses are made by New Flyer, a Canadian company. L.A. Metro did not respond to a request for comment.

BYD, which did not respond to a request for comment, opened the first U.S.-based Chinese car manufacturing facility in California and represents the CCP's "industrial offensive," according to a 2019 research brief from the Alliance for American Manufacturing. The company has spent nearly $800,000 in lobbying California officials over the past two legislative sessions alone, as the state spends hundreds of millions to electrify city buses and build charging infrastructure.