When Chinese electric car company Byton first announced it was abandoning plans to sell its vehicles in the US, it meant less competition for American EV makers like Tesla. But as Tesla’s ambitions have expanded towards the world’s largest EV market -- that’s China, by the way -- it would still face Byton as an opponent for market share in the far east.
That is, if Byton can survive the pandemic.
Bloomberg is reporting that the company is taking a little break. Byton announced that it would be halting operations for six months starting July 1st, and is furloughing employees while working to find the funds to pay them money that they’re currently owed. Byton is reportedly prioritizing paying those who were willing to submit a resignation in writing before the end of June.
According to the Financial Post, Byton’s website is still accepting orders for vehicles. A spokesperson reportedly claims that this is all part of a strategic restructuring plan and that the company will keep a small part of its workforce of 1,500 in order to maintain “basic operation.”
But can this company plagued by investor and management shifts and blown deadlines make it through the largest challenges of the never-ending pandemic? China’s support of the electric car industry had been strong up until the last few years, but in 2017 the country scaled back on incentives. Add to this the relative success of Byton’s rivals, like NIO and - now - Tesla, and it could be a thorny path to recovery.
That said, Byton’s situation doesn’t necessarily reflect the overall outlook for electric vehicles. EV and hydrogen truck maker Nikola just filed its IPO to massive fanfare, making a multi-billionaire out of its 38-year-old founder.