Stella Li, BYD Motors president.

Stella Li: Knowing what it takes to succeed

Oct. 11, 2018
BYD Motors president is providing a valuable lesson.

Stella Li’s record speaks for itself. Under her leadership, BYD Motors has experienced steady market growth in Europe, South America, and Latin America, and it is now expanding across North America and becoming a dominant player in the market for electric vehicles.

It was Li, a 22-year veteran with the world’s largest manufacturer of electric cars, buses, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks, who established the company’s North American headquarters in Los Angeles in 2011 and its manufacturing base in Lancaster, CA, in 2013.

Li is clear about what it takes to succeed. “As long as you are knowledgeable about the industry you’re in, you will be accepted and respected as a reliable partner by your customers and other parties,” she said. “It’s essential to understand the concerns that the market has and to offer your expertise to find solutions that address those issues.”

Li said her initial learning curve about electric vehicles involved developing a deep understanding of technical details. Her first role as the marketing manager for global exports at BYD Company Limited in China in 1996 was to train sales teams and create marketing strategies, a responsibility that taught her how to talk about renewable power, green energy products, and zero emissions vehicles in real-world terms.

“A good trait to have in any business, and something I think women excel at naturally, is the ability to communicate,” Li stated. “If you come prepared with knowledge, are at ease speaking about your company’s technology, and are always ready to listen, you will have a whole view of an industry and a better understanding of what’s needed.”

Li is also on a mission, or rather BYD’s (which she said can refer to Build Your Dreams) mission to change the world through technological innovation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and our dependency on fossil fuels. “It is no surprise to me that critics question our ability to deliver a complete clean-energy ecosystem that reduces the world’s reliance on petroleum and reverses centuries of exploitation of our planet,” she wrote in a letter to BYD’s more than 900 employees in California. “But nothing can slow us down.

“Without technological entrepreneurs like BYD that are willing to push the envelope, we would be conceding the very viability of life as we know it,” Li added. “The use of fossil fuels must rapidly decrease in the face of insurmountable evidence of climate change. BYD has developed products that will replace our world’s reliance on fossil fuels. Electrification is the cornerstone of our future.”

Li’s drive has not gone unnoticed. BYD Motors has won more than a dozen awards and honors from environmental advocates, government agencies, and major media outlets for its pioneering efforts. It also received the inaugural Select LA Foreign Direct Investment Award recognizing its impact on the regional economy and jobs in Southern California.

BYD continues to experience exponential market growth across multiple industries, something Li attributed to its values and focus on environmental protection and gender equality, as well as its ongoing desire to foster cooperation between U.S. and Chinese businesses.

Recently, the California Legislative Women’s Caucus honored Li with their Woman of the Year Award. “That was most gratifying,” she noted, “and I also believe that my story of moving up in the business world can provide a valuable lesson for other women to follow.”

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