EV startup Byton may lose Chairman Breitfeld soon


Will Byton lose its most prominent executive before the first model comes to market? Chairman and co-founder Carsten Breitfeld is about to leave the company, a report by German Manager Magazin claims. Byton denies this.

Manager Magazine quotes several unnamed sources saying Carsten Breitfeld will quit due to financial difficulties. The report further suggests, Breitfeld not being the only executive about to take his hat.

While Byton spokesman Oliver Strohbach was quick to comment that Byton sees “no reason for this speculation,” especially when it comes to existing contracts, it remains an open question for how long Breitfeld may stay. Earlier this year, he had handed over his position as CEO to Byton co-founder Daniel Kirchert reportedly. Breitfeld has since been acting Chairman with some observers considering this a degradation. Manager Magazin again quoted unnamed insiders saying that Breitfeld could move on to lead the Ioniq EV startup of China that counts Magna among its investors. Breitfeld was not available for comments.

While it is unclear whether the Manager Magazine is right, Breitfeld leaving would be a loss for Byton. Back in 2016, he had co-founded the EV start-up, bringing with him his project-leading experience last applied to the BMW i8. Byton then started to make waves, positioning itself as the Tesla fighter rooted in the world’s largest electric car market, China. Last year both FAW and CATL joined ranks with Foxconn and Tencent as Byton investors.

However, Byton is looking to start round C of investments, again for half a billion more dollars to finance its growth plans and Manager Magazin reports of difficulties. Earlier this year, Breitfeld himself had suggested that it had become harder to find investors as a startup in China and also warned of a bubble on a market (too) hot with expectations. Therefore, he and Kirchert had hoped for US investors to carry the company through production.

If Breitfeld’s departure is imminent, the executive will leave before the market launch of the company’s first electric car. Byton spokesman Strohbach said the M-Byte e-SUV would launch as scheduled in China this year. Byton last claimed to have received 50,000 reservations via its website.

manager-magazin.de (in German), reuters.com


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