EV Startup Byton Suspends Operations
Byton, the Chinese electric-car startup, is halting all domestic operations for six months as it struggles to get itself launched.
The would-be carmaker will shut down all functions in China on July 1 and shed its entire staff of about 1,000 people in China, according to Bloomberg News, which cites an internal letter to employees.
The fate of 500 more employees located elsewhere isn’t immediately clear, although media reports say the company furloughed most of its staff in California two months ago.
Byton’s M-Byte electric SUV (Image: Byton)
Byton invited employees to submit written resignations due today, Bloomberg reports. The company says it will seek funding to pay wages due to its staff, with those who resign getting priority.
The 4-year-old company, originally named Future Mobility Corp., blames its woes on the coronavirus pandemic.
Launched by several former BMW executives, the company had planned to launch its first model, the M-Byte midsize crossover vehicle, right about now in China, with sales to follow in Europe and the U.S. next year.
The vehicles were to be produced at an 8.6 million-sq-ft factory near its headquarters in Nanjing, which has capacity to build 300,000 cars per year.
Byton has fancied itself a Chinese version of Tesla. Its early financial backers included FAW Group, Foxconn Technology and Tencent Holdings, although all three have since dropped out. Last January the company was closing in on $500 million in new funding from Chinese carmaker FAW Group and the city of Nanjing’s investment fund.
The M-Byte’s wall-to-wall display screen.
What Could Have Been
The M-Byte debuted as a concept at the CES electronics show in Las Vegas in January 2019 and appeared in production-ready form at the Frankfurt auto show in September. The company, whose website is still taking reservations for the model, says it has some 60,000 buyers already lined up, most of them in China.
The base M-Byte is equipped with a 72-kWh battery and 268-hp (360 km) electric motor that can run 224 miles per charge. An all-wheel version includes a larger battery and second motor that boosts output to 402 hp and extends range to 286 miles (460 km).
Inside, the car’s dashboard is dominated by a 48-inch-wide door-to-door display. Two smaller touchscreens on the steering wheel hub and center console handle various vehicle controls and infotainment features.
Whether Byton can revive after its six-month shutdown will depend on two things: the ability to attract new financing and the return of post-pandemic market stability. Neither of which is a sure bet today.
According to Sandor Piszar, Chevrolet truck marketing director, “We engineer and build our trucks with customers’ expectations in mind.”
Chinese electric-car startup Nio Inc. is forming a manufacturing joint venture with Beijing E-Town International Investment and Development Co., which is investing 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) in the business.
It’s the fifth generation of a vehicle that has been increasing in sales year after year since its introduction in 1997.