Chinese start-up company Byton will bring its the M-Byte electric SUV to right-hand-drive markets such as the UK if there is enough interest, and “the signs are good”, according to chief technical officer David Twohig.
The M-Byte has been in development for two years. Launching on the Chinese market initially, with customer deliveries set to get under way in the middle of 2020, it’s planned to arrive in Europe in early 2021 at a starting price of €45,000 (£40,280).
Twohig, a former chief engineer at Alpine, claims the delay in getting the car to Europe is “mostly for software reasons”. The company gets mapping data from Baidu – effectively China’s Google – but must work with different partners in Europe. “We have to establish that and then iron out all the bugs, to ensure everything works as it should,” Twohig said. A hundred prototypes have been built so far, with over half of those destroyed during testing.
The production car on display – described as 100% finished – bears a strong resemblance to the concept that was revealed earlier this year and retains that car’s distinctive 48in curved ‘Shared Experience Display’, the largest infotainment screen yet fitted to a production car.
The screen forms part of what Byton calls “a digital lounge feeling” and allows passengers to access connectivity services and vehicle controls.
The start-up is Chinese owned and funded, but Twohig claims “we want to and have to be global to be taken seriously”. Twohig and a 400-strong technical and engineering team are based in Santa Clara, near Silicon Valley in California. The design team is based in Munich, Germany, while production is based in Nanjing, China, with a new facility (described by Twohig as “much like Nissan’s Sunderland plant”) able to build 300,000 units annually.
Byton CEO Daniel Kirchert said: “We’re on the verge of starting series production, and the feedback from media and especially from our future customers is of great relevance to us.
“Today’s unveiling of the Byton M-Byte also shows the effort paying off for the team, which has worked relentlessly on the car for over two years. Within that short amount of time, we have taken a smart electric car from an initial idea on a white sheet of paper to series-production readiness, while also building a coherent infrastructure with locations on three continents and an efficient industry 4.0 production facility in China.”