Foxconn signs deal with Byton

Taiwanese manufacturing giant, best known for making Apple iPhones, invests in struggling EV start-up.

Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn, which contract-manufactures products such as the Apple iPhone, has taken a major stake in struggling EV start-up Byton in a move set to accelerate its expansion into the car industry.

Chinese-owned Byton was launched in 2017 and has shown a range of concept cars since then. It had been developing its M-Byte SUV for production, with plans to offer it in China and Europe, but suspended operations in June last year due to financial struggles worsened by the pandemic.

Foxconn, through its parent firm Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, has now agreed a ‘strategic co-operation deal’ with Byton, aided by the Nanjing Economic and Technological Development Zone. Bloomberg reports the deal is worth around $200 million (AUD$261m).

As part of the arrangement, Foxconn will provide Byton with its manufacturing technology and expertise, and help it gain access to Foxconn’s extensive supply chain.

The move is the latest step by Foxconn into the electric car industry, which includes an agreement signed last year to establish a Chinese-market joint venture with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and a plan to launch a solid-state EV battery by 2024.

In October last year, Foxconn unveiled the MIH Open Platform, an electric vehicle architecture and software platform, and invited firms to link up and develop vehicles on it. The firm claims MIH can be used for saloons and SUVs, and said it wants the platform to serve as “the Android [operating system] of the EV industry”.

Foxconn is estimated to manufacture around 40 per cent of all consumer electronics worldwide, and has made products for the likes of Apple, Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, Nokia and BlackBerry. It is looking to diversify its interests into other markets to become less reliant on Apple, and has been drawn by the rapidly expanding EV industry. It has already manufactured parts for firms including Tesla.

Byton was was co-founded by former BMW i boss Carston Breitfeld, who left the firm last year and recently joined fellow EV start-up Faraday Future. It was originally funded by investment from Chinese internet giant Tencent and a number of other firms including Foxconn. First Auto Works, China’s oldest state-owned car maker, took a major stake in 2018, and Breitfeld has cited that firm’s influence as part of his reason for leaving.

Foxconn’s growing interest in electric vehicles comes as major client Apple is reported to be showing renewed interest in the market, with plans to launch its first EV by 2024.

James Attwood

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