Chinese startup Byton has been one of the most promising new carmakers of the last decade. Indeed, the company’s first M-Byte model features seemingly sold technology, a unique interior with a massive, PR-grabbing 48″ infotainment screen, and a huge factory that — as recently as this past April, even post COVID — had cars in pre-production. It was something of a surprise then, when I read that the company would be suspending operations for at least six months (emphasis mine).
In an interview with The Detroit Bureau, Byton spokesman Dave Buchko told reporters that virtually all staff around the world will be let go. “The company is going to suspend operations on July 1 for six months,” he explained. “The board of directors and top management are looking to find a way to move the company forward.”
For his part, Mark Duchesne, Vice President of Manufacturing Operations at Byton, always knew that a premium Chinese car like the M-Byte would be a tough sell. That’s why the company chose to construct a state-of-the-art, 860,000 sq-ft facility from scratch as part of a larger plan to retire the negative “Chinese quality” stigma held by many American and European buyers by putting strict QC standards in place. That factory cost money, however, and it seems like the global COVID-19 pandemic has made money a bit harder to come by than expected.
“Without a revenue stream,” says Buchko, “we just hit the wall.”
It’s hard to say from the outside looking in, but the industry consensus seems to be that the wall Byton has hit — in keeping with Chinese tradition — is a big one. “The prospects for the company then being able to get back to business seem slim,” writes Paul Eisenstein, and he’s not alone. That said, I’d like to think that a company that is so very, very close to putting a finished product on the road could be bought out and “saved” in the same way Nio was. But, again, the global economic landscape was very, very different not all that long ago, wasn’t it?
What do you guys think? Is Byton going bye-bye for now, or for good? And, honestly, did we really need a 48″ screen in a vehicle to begin with? Let us know your take in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Source: the Detroit Bureau, images via Byton.
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