Byton delays production but says $500 million funding to come

By Jill Shen
2 min read
A Byton showroom on West Nanjing Road in Shanghai on March 3, 2019. (Image credit: TechNode)

Electric vehicle maker Byton has pushed back the launch date of its first commercial model to mid-2020 as it re-calibrates following the departure of one of its founders and a major cash crunch amid an auto market slowdown.

Why it matters: Byton’s management and financial woes are emblematic of broader issues in China’s EV industry, which features a number of companies in turmoil. The Chinese-backed EV maker’s troubles were aired to the public when co-founder and then-chairman Carsten Breitfeld surprised many with his appearance at the Auto Shanghai show in April as a representative of rival carmaker, Iconiq.

  • Byton’s finances were upended after assuming debt totaling RMB 850 million ($120 million) from Huali, a subsidiary of Chinese OEM FAW, to secure its production license late last year. The company still owes RMB 310 million as of mid-July, according to an announcement released by FAW’s listed subsidiary Xiali.
  • This was followed by a round layoffs extending to both Byton’s domestic sales team and US affiliate. Byton confirmed the downsizing to Chinese media but did not disclose numbers.

Detail: Byton showcased a final production version of its first model, a premium SUV called the M-Byte, featuring a maximum range of 550 kilometers (around 340 miles) and an 8-inch touchscreen in the middle of the steering wheel at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show on Tuesday.

  • The three-year-old EV maker unveiled plans to begin mass production in a newly built plant in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing in mid-2020, and plans to begin taking pre-orders for deliveries in Europe and North America in 2021.
  • Trial production is expected to begin in October. The company had said previously at CES 2019 in January that it would start production at the end of this year and deliver cars to customers in early 2020.
  • Byton also announced its $500 million Series C is “almost in place” from investors including FAW and capital firms affiliated with the local-level governments of eastern Jiangsu province and Nanjing municipality, reported Chinese media on Tuesday citing Byton CEO Daniel Kirchert.
  • The EV maker was reportedly closing a $500 million round in May led by FAW, which was said to be investing $100 million.
  • Byton was not immediately available for comment when contacted by TechNode on Wednesday.

Context: Chinese EV makers are hunting for funds to stay afloat in the crowded electric vehicle market, which declined year on year in July for the first time in two years, a result of reduced government subsidies.

  • Byton had raised $700 million as of June 2018 from investors including FAW and China’s largest battery maker, CATL.
  • Guangzhou-based Xpeng Motors, which has secured over $1.4 billion, is seeking to close a round of $600 million investment by the end of this year.
  • Nio has raised more than $3.5 billion to date, including $2.4 billion from four rounds of financing and nearly $1 billion from the public market in September last year, when it debuted on the New York Stock Exchange.