Byton, the Nanjing-headquartered electric vehicle startup which is facing a cash crunch since last year, has sealed a manufacturing deal with electronics maker Foxconn, in an effort to fire up production of its first model M-Byte ahead of its expected launch by the first quarter of 2022, the company announced on its website on Monday.
According to the cooperation framework, which involves the government-backed Nanjing Development Zone, Foxconn will provide manufacturing technology, operational management experience, and industrial resources to support the vehicle production. A first batch of prototypes rolled off the production line and completed safety tests in the first half of 2020. Byton was granted a new energy vehicle production license in June 2020.
Foxconn plans to invest around USD 200 million in the venture, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing a source. However, the long road to mass production of Byton’s SUV is still full of uncertainties. Byton has extended its suspension of work and production until June 2021 due to a “lack of conditions to resume work and production,” local Chinese media reported. Back in June, the company suspended its Chinese operations for six months, furloughed all employees in the region, and filed for bankruptcy protection in North America and Europe.
In April 2019, the company still had high-flying plans. Daniel Kirchert, then-CEO of Byton, said the M-byte was ready for mass production by the end of 2019, but the schedule was delayed for undisclosed reasons.
In previous funding rounds, Byton raised around USD 1.3 billion. The firm announced in September 2019 a USD 500 million Series C round from investors that included Chinese automaker FAW and government funds affiliated with the Jiangsu province and capital city Nanjing. The round was originally scheduled to close by the end of June, but has not been completed.
Byton was launched in September 2017 by Future Mobility Corp, a company co-founded by former BMW executive Carsten Breitfeld and Kirchert, former managing director for Infiniti China and president of Dongfeng Infiniti Motor. Future Mobility was a joint venture established in 2016 by Tencent, Foxconn, and luxury-car dealer Harmony New Energy Auto.