China-based startup Byton, which presented its first SUV concept car at CES in January and is aiming for Level 3 autonomy on release, has signed a strategic cooperation investment framework agreement with Chinese manufacturing company FAW (First Automotive Works). FAW will join the Byton’s B-round fundraising as a strategic investor.
FAW was one of China’s first vehicle manufacturers and today produces its own range of cars and commercial vehicles in addition to handling a large part of the VW group’s local production. As a result, its substantial resources and experience in product research and development, manufacturing, sales and supply chain management will be a huge boon to Byton.
As Tesla’s Model 3 production issues demonstrate, getting the mass production of an all-new vehicle up and running is one of the biggest hurdles for new car companies, so the support of an established automotive manufacturing partner could be key to Byton’s commercial success.
Byton first showed its concept car, an electric SUV designed for compatibility with future autonomous technologies, at the CES 2018 show in Las Vegas, Nevada, in January, with an updated version revealed last week as part of Milan Design Week. The SUV is scheduled to go on sale in China next year and should arrive in Europe and the USA in 2020, with a sedan and an MPV model to follow.
The company has released teaser images of the sedan this week, ahead of its reveal at the CES Asia show to be held in Shanghai, China, in June. The renderings suggest a fairly traditional modern sedan shape, with the exception of two lidar units integrated into the roof one facing forwards, one backwards.
The cooperation of Byton and FAW on product research and development, manufacturing, sales and services, combined with Byton’s ambitious model strategy shows that China may soon be a force to be reckoned with as an innovator in the fields of autonomous and electric vehicle innovation.