LANCASTER — BYD Coach and Bus will hire independent transportation experts to fully inspect the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, buses based on common industry standards after the city pulled out of its contract with the Chinese company this week citing safety concerns and structural issues.
Company officials also threatened to take all appropriate legal action to protect itself in light of city officials’ conduct.
According to a Nov. 13 release by the city numerous safety concerns were uncovered by mechanics after 15 BYD buses underwent a full inspection at Mayor Tim Keller’s direction to ensure the safety of the buses after several issues came up during driver training.
“After inspections over the past three weeks, we’ve uncovered so many safety and structural issues that we simply cannot put these buses on our streets,” Keller said in a statement.
According to the release, the city tried to work with BYD for more than a year to resolve major issues with bus performance and workmanship.
“Now we’re putting BYD on notice, demanding that they come pick up these buses and holding them responsible for damages to our taxpayers,” Keller said.
The problems cited in the release say the buses were not able to timely pass the Altoona testing as promised in the contract, and therefore the city cannot put the buses into service.
Altoona refers to the Larson Transportation Institute’s Bus Research and Testing Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania. The center tests buses for maintainability, reliability, safety, performance, structural integrity and durability, fuel/energy economy, noise, and emissions.
City officials also claimed BYD has not provided certifications that are contractually and federally required, such as the crash worthiness certifications. In addition, the city informed BYD that the bus batteries and chargers do not meet the specifications as required under the contract.
“City officials have identified serious and non-repairable safety issues with the buses that prohibit the city from proceeding with any launch of the BYD buses within Albuquerque,” the release said.
BYD released its response Friday, saying the facts show that Keller and his team never intended to honor their contract.
“Keller has admitted that city transit officials have been working for many months with one of BYD’s competitors,” the company said. “As a result, the fleet of usable, zero-emission buses, built in Lancaster, California, by an all-union workforce, have sat idle for the past 90 days. BYD has not been paid for the buses built to Albuquerque’s specifications, and has not been allowed to inspect the buses during that time.”
Company officials are confident the bus inspections “will document and demonstrate that buses sent to the city of Albuquerque earlier this year are sound, fit for service and able to carry riders in a safe manner in accordance with all state and federal standards for passenger buses,” the statement said.
In addition, BYD officials vehemently denied all allegations made by Keller regarding supposed defects with the company’s zero-emission buses.
“Keller’s media statements slander and maliciously harm the reputation and good name of BYD,” the statement said.
“These statements show that the city is not acting in good faith under the contract and further indicate a potential political agenda to discredit and throttle a public works project that the mayor has long criticized as part of his campaign platform,” the statement said. “The mayor’s actions have harmed the people of Albuquerque, BYD, and all 850 of our U.S. employees.”
Since BYD opened its Lancaster manufacturing plant in 2013, the plant has grown from 106,000 square feet and a workforce of a few dozen to a facility that now covers more than a half million square feet. The firm is the only electric vehicle manufacturer in the U.S. to have an all-union workforce, and a diverse team of employees.
BYD delivered a fleet of 60‐foot articulated buses to Albuquerque in February, as ordered, according to the company’s statement. The statement cited a report from Albuquerque’s inspector general, issued in June, that said city Transit District inspectors spent months inserted into the manufacturing process at BYD’s Lancaster plant. Those inspectors were in daily contact with their supervisors in Albuquerque who certified the buses for service on the Central Avenue corridor earlier this year.
“We fully expect that these independent, unbiased inspections will conclusively demonstrate that our buses are built to the highest standards and capable of fulfilling the purpose that they were purchased for,” BYD President Stella Li said in a statement.
According to the company’s statement BYD worked tirelessly and in good faith with city officials to ensure its products met their requirements.
“In our commitment to world-class customer service, BYD offered the city extended warranties, additional electric battery charging equipment, and technicians to ensure a smooth transition toward emission-free public transportation,” the company said.
BYD is the largest electric vehicle manufacturer in the world, with thousands of customers and more than 36,000 buses deployed, and in service daily. Company officials say its buses are reliable and safe, and are moving quickly to implement the separate inspection.
“An independent investigation will prove to the world that we have been misrepresented,” Li said.
The company said Albuquerque’s actions have not only wrongfully damaged BYD’s reputation, but also have deprived the citizens of Albuquerque of the world’s safest and most advanced pollution- and cost-reducing zero‐emission transit bus.
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