The car manufacturer FAW, which is owned by the Chinese government, is investing a “significant amount of money” into the EV startup Byton, which is run by former BMW-i manager Carsten Breitfeld. The news was broken by Breitfeld himself.
The exact amount of the investment is not currently known. FAW is interested in the technology to help drive its brand Hongqi in a more electrified direction, as well as FAW’s supply chains for components such as batteries. The contract was signed in Beijing after somewhat lengthy negotiations.
Since China announced the end of the joint venture requirement, experts feared the new regulations may weaken the position of young Chinese startups such as Byton. CEO Carsten Breitfeld though said that the state-owned company approached Byton, and there are no indications of interest in a takeover by FAW.
Byton themselves are making big steps toward joining the market. Just this week they first presented the prototype serial version of their electric SUV to European audiences in Italy. The vehicle is expected to launch 2019 in China and 2020 in Europe and the USA. Byton plans to present their second concept, an electric sedan at the CES Asia in June.
FAW has stated that their plan is to develop 15 electric vehicles with Hongqi by 2025, the first of which is due this year. As of 2020, the EVs are planned to have ranges around 600 km and level 4 autonomous driving, and being completely autonomous as of 2025. The state automobile manufacturer first debuted in 1959, and their sedans have seen regular use in parades and official functions, however have not enjoyed as much popularity in the private transport sector.
In addition to the Byton investment, FAW is also joint venture partner with several other foreign manufacturers, including Volkswagen.
Update May, 15: The investment has been disclosed today with Reuters reporting that FAW to shoulder more than half the amount sought in this latest round of financing. In numbers, FAW will spend 260 million dollars on Byton that is looking to collect half a billion dollars.
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