Technology Jan 05

Foxconn partnership recharges ailing Chinese EV maker Byton

New venture hopes to tap into China's zero-emissions policy and encourage Hon Hai Precision to diversify its business away from a dependence on making kit for Apple

Foxconn partnership recharges ailing Chinese EV maker Byton
The Byton M-Byte electric battery vehicle was unveiled at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Byton was building a car factory in Nanjing before it suspended production and furloughed staff from July 2020. Photo: Byton.

(ATF) China's dynamic new energy vehicle (NEV) market will receive a new jolt with Apple supplier Foxconn Technology Group teaming with Byton, a cash-strapped but reputedly talent-rich carmaker, to make electric sport-utility vehicles from next year.

Young Liu, chairman of Foxconn, said in a joint statement that his company would provide advanced manufacturing technology and operations management. "The partnership with Byton is in alignment with our company's vision," he said.

Byton was building a car factory in Nanjing before it suspended production and furloughed staff from July 2020. “Covid-19 has posed great challenge to Byton’s funding and business operation,” the company said at the time.

Byton had about 800 employees in China.

The company's pedigree attracted industry interest when it was launched in September 2017 by Future Mobility, because it was co-founded by former BMW and Nissan Motor executives and backed by state-owned automaker FAW Group and battery supplier Contemporary Amperex Technology.

Little is known about its products, however. Last year, US-based Consumer Reports examined a production-ready prototype of the 2021 M-Byte, describing its overall appearance as "similar to that of sporty compact SUVs such as the Lincoln Corsair and Mazda CX-5." The reviewer added: "Because Byton is a start-up company, we advise caution regarding initial reliability."

Foxconn diversifies

In January 2020, Foxconn said, in a Taiwan Stock Exchange filing, it intended to make a big push into electric cars through a joint venture with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and run networks of connected wireless vehicles. But little has been heard of the partnership since then.

Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, hopes to tap into China's declared national strategy of making all new vehicles sold in 2035 "eco-friendly," with 50% NEV – powered by batteries or hydrogen – and 50% fuel hybrids.

"China is expected to lead electric vehicle industry development in the next two decades," Caroline Maurer, head of China and Hong Kong equities at HSBC Global Asset Management, said.

The NEV venture is also part of Foxconn’s campaign to diversify its business away from manufacturing Apple products, which account for half of its revenues. The group has invested in several Chinese transport-related companies, including ride-hailing group Didi Chuxing, battery maker CATL and Xpeng Motors, another NEV maker.

Byton said it had been granted a NEV production licence in June 2020. "The partnership with Foxconn will bring us the expertise of precision manufacturing and profound resources," the company's co-chief executive Ding Qingfen said.

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EV NEV automotive China Foxconn Byton electric vehicles