Byton backed up by iPhone maker Foxconn
Chinese electric car start-up Byton has signed a deal with Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn to back up the production of its first M-Byte model with some $200 million (€162 million). Byton was well on track to set up its production factory when the corona pandemic brought it to a life-threatening halt. Production could start in Q1 of 2022, Bloomberg reports.
According to the press agency, Foxconn would supply advanced manufacturing technology, management expertise, and ‘supply chain resources’. Foxconn itself wants to venture into the electric car business, it announced just a few weeks ago.
Foxconn’s own EV platform
According to Car and Driver, Foxconn said it’s developing an EV platform called MIH, with solid-state batteries that can accommodate different carmakers’ needs and specs. The first car based on the platform could be launched in two years, the solid-state batteries in 2024.
Last week, it was rumored that Apple is prepping for the release in 2024 of its own electric car, with self-developed next-stage battery technology. A coincidence that both timings match?
More independent from Apple?
Foxconn is currently Apple’s main contract manufacturer for the iPhone. For the Taiwan-based company, that business represents more than half of its return. It wants to broaden its business and become more independent from Apple.
For Byton, the deal with Foxconn – yet to be confirmed officially when it’s actually signed – is a lifeline it needs desperately. Foxconn already helped Byton in 2016, together with Chinese internet tech company Tencent to set up a company Future Mobility Corporation that became Byton later.
Enveloped by FAW
Another initial backer of the start-up was First Auto Works (FAW), China’s state-owned automaker and one of the ‘big four.’ Eventually, Byton is being enveloped into the larger corporate structure. FAW is a long-time partner for the Volkswagen Group, producing the German brand’s cars for the Chinese market.
Chinese electric car brand Byton looked doomed in June of last year due to the pandemic and had to shut down its operations in China, the US, and Germany. It claimed to get back on its feet again under the flag of ‘Shenteng Auto’ in September.
On July 1st, the company that created the Byton brand was forced to cease operations, according to CEO Dai Lei, due to the ‘economic pressure’, partly caused by the corona crisis. By then, some 200 pre-production prototypes of the Byton-M were made.
The workforce in Nanjing, China, with presumed production capacity from 50 000 to 150 000 cars, was reduced in China from 1 030 to some 100, of which 50/50 in production and R&D. In the US, at its technology development center in Silicon Valley where 340 jobs were at stake, and the design center in Munich, Germany with 65 people, only a handful of jobs were to be retained.
New capital injection
On September 9th, Nanjing Shengteng Automobile Technology Co., Ltd. was registered as the company’s new name, with a capital of 1,5 billion yuan ($217 million).
Initial investors like the state-owned FAW Group’s Equity Investment and Nanjing Xingzhi Technology Industry Co. have subscribed to the new company’s capital. The Nanjing city government is said to have pledged to invest another $150 million.
All-electric midsize SUV
The Byton M-Byte is an all-electric midsize SUV with a range of 360 to 460 kilometers announced for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas in 2018, later followed by a sedan version, K-Byte showed for the first time at CES Asia in Shanghai.
Just before the major outbreak of Covid-19 in Europe in March, it was announced that in the Netherlands, the Byton-M was to be distributed by Toyota-Lexus importer Louwman, starting in the second half of 2021. In Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, and Switzerland, Byton was to work with different importers.
The Byton-M would retail starting at €45 000, and pre-ordering was about to start as the coronavirus foiled the plans.