The auto industry is evolving in two ways, both of which spell massive changes for the industry with which we all grew up.
First, the industry has become globalized like never before. American cars are built in Mexico, Japanese cars are made in America, parts are sourced from around the world, and finished cars are exported into global markets.
Second, this global evolution is the continued blurring of the lines between car and tech experience. Rather than cars offering tech products, tech products are becoming cars.
That’s an important distinction from the carmakers of our youth, and one that’s driving a new breed of automaker into the limelight. Chinese automaker Byton is a perfect example.
The new electric vehicle company Byton has a footprint in three countries, around 400 employees, and worldwide ambitions. After about 18 months spent in anonymity as the Future Mobility Corporation, Byton now wants you to think of it not as a Chinese EV brand, a German automaker, or a Silicon Valley start-up. Instead, it’s a bit of all three.
Even at its core, Byton is a global company. Bytons’s CEO is the former lead of BMW’s i8 program and its co-founder is a former managing director at Infiniti. The company has partnered with German company Bosch to provide motors and has a billion-dollar factory in China with a 300,000-vehicle annual capacity.
Additionally, Byton wants to be thought of us a tech firm that happens to build automobiles: The automaker will debut it’s first vehicle, an electric SUV, at the CES Show in Las Vegas next month. This tradeshow highlights the newest items in the world of consumer technology.
As for product details, we know the SUV will come with either FWD or AWD. It will use two electric motors, a 150-kW motor up front and a 200-kW motor in back, along with two battery options. The 71-kWh battery will be good for around 200 miles, while a 95-kWh battery should be able to go a bit further, about 310 miles.
Its dashboard will be dominated by a massive 49-inch screen and an additional 8-inch screen in the center of the steering wheel.
The SUV will start at around $40,000-$45,0000, a much-more palatable price than Tesla’s similar Model X.
Byton is building the SUV with a global market in mind, as it plans to meet regulatory requirements in North America, Asia, and Europe.
Does that mean U.S. car buyers will see the Byton SUV on dealer lots soon?
Maybe, but there are some concerns. There is no existing dealer network to handle sales or service. And while there’s a network of charging stations across the country, a majority of it has been built by Tesla. As a result, it’s not clear how Byton cars will charge on U.S. road trips.
However, there is still hope. Byton is well-funded and production has already started. The company has set high production goals, plans for two additional models, and has a reasonable pricing goal for its first SUV.
Will that be enough to succeed? Creating a new automotive company is notoriously difficult and electric cars from the established automakers are hard to beat. However, if Byton can deliver a tech experience on wheels that provides luxury electric transportation at an attractive price, buyers around the globe are likely to line up with their wallets open.
Do automakers need to consider themselves tech companies to stay relevant?
Shopping for a new vehicle?
Bring along CarGurus’ mobile app to help check prices, find good deals, and research cars on your smartphone.