What is it about electric cars that makes people believe they can snap their fingers and become an auto manufacturer overnight? It’s like the beginning of the 20th century when every blacksmith, bicycle mechanic, and wagon maker decided to get into the car business. Some of them flourished, but most disappeared after a few years. Yet still the allure of making automobiles has hardly dimmed since those heady days.
Foxconn, the Taiwan-based company that is best known for making iPhones for Apple, held a splashy corporate event this week to announce that it has gotten the car making bug and plans to introduce three electric vehicles — a sedan, an SUV, and a bus — to the world shortly. A year ago, it revealed its dedicated electric car skateboard.
The Model C is a 4.6 meter long electric SUV with seating for 7. It has a “drag coefficient of 0.27 (good but not great), accelerates from 0 to 100 km in 3.8 seconds, and delivers an extended range of 700 km (NEDC),” the company says on its website. “Thanks to the open platform sharing advantages, consumers can have a pure electric SUV with high performance, high efficiency, high intelligence, low energy consumption and large space at a reasonable price comparable to a fuel powered car.”
The company also presented is Model E electric sedan, developed in conjunction with Italian design house Pininfarina. (That company has been busy designing cars for clients lately. It is also responsible for the design of the new SUVs coming from VinFast.) The company says the “technologically innovative luxury flagship sedan … can meet the needs of middle and high end consumers. At the same time, it is also the high-quality first choice for businesses. The rear seat space can transform into a dedicated mobile office with personal mobile devices seamlessly connected to the passenger car, enabling a series of smart applications such as face recognition door opening, smart windows, and vehicle and environment interfaces.
“In addition to luxury and comfort, the Model E, with high performance and advanced dynamic control technology, delivers a power output of about 750 horsepower and achieves 0 to 100 km acceleration in a staggering 2.8 seconds — better than comparable models in the market and almost at the pace of a Formula One racing car. The Model E also has a 750 km range to address the range anxiety of most electric car users.” (Note that Ford would not let Tesla have/use its “Model E” trademark. We’re not clear on Foxconn’s plans around that if it intends to sell this car — or the next one — in the USA.)
Unlike its namesake, the Model T from Foxconn is a full size city bus that will be sold under the brand name Foxtron. Tso Chi-sen, vice chairman of Foxtron, told reporters this week that electric vehicles would be worth a trillion Taiwan dollars to Foxconn in five years time — equivalent to around $35 billion.
“The high rigid body design and protection meet the Federal Transit Administration regulations and standards. In addition, the Model T has completed 200,000 km of acceleration endurance test and more than 1,000 hours of rigid strength tests at the Automotive Research & Testing Center, ensuring the safety of drivers and passengers alike,” the company says.
“In terms of energy consumption and endurance, the Model T’s battery can withstand temperatures of up to 400 degrees, across a range of more than 400 kilometers. Under full load conditions, the maximum climbing capacity can reach 25%, and the maximum speed can reach 120 kilometers per hour, providing drivers with a relaxed and smooth driving experience, whilst allowing passengers a comfortable and safe journey.” Check out the video below for more about Foxconn’s vehicle lineup.
Apart from the issues Foxconn will have with Ford and Tesla about its choice of model names, the company has one significant hurdle between it and its goad to become a global manufacturer of electric vehicles. It has no experience putting together a supply chain or assembling vehicles. If Elon Musk has taught us anything, it is that making automobiles is one tough business. Many have tried and many have failed. Foxconn has enormous resources but no factories built in this century, no sales structure, no customer recognition, no service network, and no leasing/financing experience.
But it is undaunted by such challenges. Its chairman, Liu Young-way, told the press this week that the company is looking at manufacturing cars in India, Europe, Latin America, and possibly Mexico, according to a report by Autoblog. He added that Taiwan had a natural edge when it came to making EVs because of its existing strength in software and semiconductors. “These are the advantages that Taiwan has cultivated for many years and is best at.”
According to Reuters, the Model E sedan will be sold by an unspecified carmaker outside Taiwan in the coming years while the Model C SUV will be sold under one of the brands of Taiwan’s Yulon Motors. It is scheduled to go on sale in Taiwan in 2023. The Model T bus, which will carry a Foxtron badge, will start running in several cities in southern Taiwan next year in a partnership with a local transportation service provider.
Foxconn is also slated to build the new electric cars from Fisker, if in fact any of them ever do get to the point of being manufactured. Given the recent history of Fisker, that day may or may not ever come. At one time, Fisker said its future cars would be built on the Volkswagen MEB chassis. Then it said they would be built by Magna. Now it’s Foxconn. What’s next? The Keebler elves?
Skepticism In High Places
There is reason to be skeptical of Foxconn’s grandiose claims. It was only a few years ago it stuck a $10 billion deal with the state of Wisconsin to build a touchscreen factory in the land of the cheeseheads. That deal was supposed to provide a bunch of new employment opportunities for Wisconsinites, but all those promises are little more than a gauzy memory today. According to Reuters, Foxconn has pretty much walked away from that deal, leaving Wisconsin officials embarrassed.
Foxconn has also set a target to provide components or services for 10% of the world’s EVs between 2025 and 2027. Will any of its latest pie-in-the-sky promises ever reach fruition? There are some who wonder if the company has any idea what it takes to manufacture automobiles. Cool tech and spiffy apps are only a part of the process, and not the major part at that. There is nothing saying the company’s lofty goals can’t be reached, but the smart money is hedging its bets and taking a “wait and see” attitude.