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China EV maker Byton says business as usual despite management turmoil

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – the Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker, Byton, which is facing a management shake-up and questions about the financing of an expansion, said it has received more than 50,000 orders worldwide for its new SUV model and plans to start production at the end of this year.

FILE PHOTO: A man checks a Byton Concept T car during a media preview at the Auto China 2018 motor show in Beijing, China, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

“We plan to launch our first production car in July of this year,” Daniel Kirchert, Byton’s co-founder and CEO, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday, adding that the company is committed to a production of 10,000 units in the first half of 2020.

Byton the lenders are Chinese retailer Suning, the automaker FAW and Contemporary Amperex Technology Co.

Kirchert the comments, which coincide with the Shanghai auto show, just days after chairman and co-founder Carsten Breitfeld stop Byton.

German daily Handelsblatt said Breitfeld is a member of Byton domestic rival Iconiq. Another German publication, Manager Magazin said earlier that Breitfeld’s imminent departure was due to problems with the financing of the planned expansion in the Chinese market, which makes the tensions within the company.

Kirchert confirmed that the former president of the departure and said: “Byton already has a very strong sources, and there are 1,800 employees working in several areas, including internet connectivity, engineering research and development.

“We are in the middle of a new round of fundraising that similar amount to the B round. We aim to finish C round around the middle of this year.” Byton had increased from $500 million in the series B round last year.

Byton, who runs offices in China, the United States and Germany, is one of the many largely Chinese funded EV startups on the benefits of local production to compete with Tesla Inc and other auto giants.

The local rivals are the Nasdaq-quoted NIO Inc and Xpeng Engines, supported by Alibaba Group.

Byton aim to hit the 100,000-unit production level around 2021-2022, he said. The 10,000 and 100,000 unit marks are generally regarded as the most important production milestones for electric-car makers.

“Only by large-scale production, we can reduce the cost and ensure affordable prices,” he said.

Byton is the construction of the first factory in Nanjing in east China with an annual capacity of 150,000 units in the first phase.

China’s car sales contracted for the first time last year since the 1990s in a broader economic slowdown, but sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs), which are equipped with electrical vehicles, continued to be a bright spot. In March, NEV sales increased 85.4 percent.

Reporting Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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