After promising first steps, Byton was quickly dubbed the “Tesla Killer”. But the years go by, and the manufacturer accumulates setbacks. What to doubt that the M-Byte of Byton manages to see the light of day.
He was seen as a “Tesla Killer”, but Byton seems to have disappeared from the radar. After a production launch completely disrupted by the pandemic, the young manufacturer found a way out in early 2021 by establishing a strategic partnership with the Taiwanese giant Foxconn. But the difficulties remain and rumors of a breakup swell. Will the Chinese brand really be able to deliver its first electric vehicle, the M-Byte? Byton’s beginnings, however, were particularly encouraging.
Very remarkable beginnings
It was at CES Las Vegas in 2018 that we discovered Byton for the first time. The young brand, created in 2016, then presented its M-Byte concept of a 100% electric crossover. The advertised features and its price immediately led to the comparison with Tesla, but it was above all its integration of a giant 48-inch screen that made people talk about it.
The young Chinese brand based in Nanjing seems serious. With its design offices based in Munich and Santa Clara (USA), it has surrounded itself with several quality profiles, poached from traditional manufacturers (BMW, Nissan, Alpine) and competitors (Tesla, Faraday Future). She was then present at various events to get people talking about her — from the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to Milan Design Week.
In September 2019, it was at the IAA Frankfurt that the brand made a remarkable appearance, in a car show that was nevertheless losing momentum and shunned by many manufacturers. She then presented the final version of the M-Byte.
Byton’s M-Byte then presents itself as a premium electric crossover. In its entry-level version, it offers a 75 kWh battery and a 200 kW motor in propulsion. A more upscale version with all-wheel drive should complete the offer, with a 95 kWh battery and a 300 kW engine. All advertised at a starting price of €45,000.
The brand recorded at this time more than 60,000 pre-orders, including 25,000 in Europe. It was then enough to pay 500 €, to be among the first customers delivered.
But it will be, finally, the last time that we will meet the brand publicly, in Europe.
A development halted by the pandemic
In March 2020, on the eve of the Geneva Motor Show, the press was however invited by Byton for the presentation of its marketing plan. A conference transformed, at the last minute, into an online event following the cancellation of the show due to the pandemic.
Since then, no more official communication has been made by the manufacturer, which nevertheless announced the opening of orders in the second half of 2020, and the establishment of its first flagship in Zurich for the following months. In France, the partnership with ByMyCar was to ensure Byton a distribution on the national territory.
It is finally the economic press which echoes what is happening in the company, speaking first of financial difficulties and of personnel placed on unpaid leave in the USA, then of cessation of activity for 6 months. The departure of CEO Daniel Kirchert left the company without direction for many months. Finally in 2020, it is the bankruptcy of the German branch Byton GmbH which shakes up the startup again.
Foxconn, the latest coup de grace?
With the support of Foxconn, Byton had to find the financial and logistical means to restart the production of its model on a large scale. But last week, the Nikkei.com media mentioned a break in this alliance. A deterioration of the financial situation would be the cause. According to Nikkei.com, the Foxconn employees involved in the Byton project seem to be leaving after only 6 months. Foxconn would now invest more heavily in other electric vehicle projects.
Is this the end of Byton, as for Faraday Future? Nothing is less certain, and the very history of Tesla has shown us that financial difficulties can be overcome. However, the delay in the M-Byte project, now scheduled for 2022, could cause it to lose interest with buyers, who want cutting-edge electric cars. In 2018, the offer of premium electric vehicles was still limited, this is no longer the case in 2021.