Byton suspends operations for six months, comeback unlikely - report

By Graeme Roberts | 30 June 2020

A huge display screen was to be the M-Bytes big selling point

A huge display screen was to be the M-Byte's big selling point

Chinese luxury SUV EV startup Byton reportedly has suspended operations for six months but is unlikely to resume.

The prospects for the company being able to get back to business seem slim, according to TheDetroitBureau.com, citing sources both inside and outside the company.

The report said Byton had completed its assembly plant in China and even won the coveted licence from government regulators needed to go into production.

But, as the Chinese market was forced into lockdown, things turned bad.

In April, the automaker confirmed it would furlough about half of the 450 employees at its US operations. Now, virtually all staff around the world will be let go, spokesman Dave Buchko told TheDetroitBureau.com.

"The company is going to suspend operations on 1 July for six months," said Buchko, adding "the board of directors and top management are looking to find a way to move the company forward."

TheDetroitBureau.com noted, among the many competitors now struggling, Faraday Future had to abandon work on its original plant near Las Vegas while LeEco had effectively folded as have other automotive 'wannabes'.

Byton had gone further than most, getting its factory built and tooled up, and even produced the small number of vehicles needed to win approval to go into production. But with the global auto market in turmoil, it was unclear when it would actually be able to start shipping vehicles to dealers and whether it would be able to find the necessary customers.

"Without a revenue stream, we just hit the wall," Buchko told TheDetroitBureau.com.

Considering the operation is so close to production, it "may be" possible to pull off a 'Hail Mary' deal, Sam Abuelsamid, principal auto analyst with Navigant Research, told TheDetroitBureau.com.

"It's possible a big Chinese company could come in with cash, like what happened with Nio." But he added: "I wouldn't bet money on it."

Byton insiders told TheDetroitBureau.com a reprieve seemed unlikely.

One said there was a "narrow window" to get the M-Byte into production before a wave of competitors, including startups and established manufacturers like General Motors, Volkswagen and Ford, start flooding the market with EVs of their own.

By this time next year, analysts forecast, there will be dozens of new long-range offerings on global markets, TheDetroitBureau.com added.

Byton set to take on the European EV market