In the global automotive ocean, another Chinese manufacturer has hit the market iceberg. The two German co-founders, both former BMW managers, had already jumped from Byton’s ship, which appears to be sailing in decidedly stormy waters: first Carsten Breitfeld and then Daniel Kirchert. In January 2018, at CES in Las Vegas, the Celestial Empire builder had presented himself with enormous ambitions: “Turn miles in to smiles”, that is to convert miles into smiles to give back to motorists at least a part of the almost two billion hours lost in the car every year offering comfortable, electric, connected and self-driving vehicles. At the last IAA in Frankfurt, in the autumn of 2019, he exhibited the production version of the M-Byte suv (actually a “siv”, acronym for “smart intuitive vehicle”) with which he was supposed to set new references in the segment.
Production that should have started in China last year has meanwhile been postponed to the first quarter of 2022, assuming that the new investor, Apple’s supplier Foxconn, believes in the relaunch. But neither from the United States, where a technological development center had been activated, nor from Germany, where a style and research center had been set up, does comforting news arrive. In recent months, layoffs had already taken place in Silicon Valley, while bankruptcy proceedings were started in Munich for the German subsidiary. Back in February, the news was leaked that the collaborators had not received the salary for months and now it has been confirmed that the building where engineers and designers worked is empty: the rental contract has been terminated.
And if Byton’s first life is no less than difficult, Borgward’s second seems to be at an end. The German brand had been resurrected by Christian Borgard, the grandson of the founder Carlo FW, with Chinese funds (Foton). Ambitions and announcements were great, as always. The company had even managed to wrest the head of design, Anders Warming, from Mini, and from Rolls-Royce the head of development, Philip Koehn (later CEO). He had also exhibited a renewed version of the historic Isabella as well as anticipated agreements on the assistance network that never went through. It was supposed to be based in Stuttgart, the city of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, and was supposed to produce in Bremen, where the brand had its headquarters before bankruptcy in the 1960s. But nothing was done.
Last year in China it recorded a market share of 0.04% (less than 9,000 units delivered). Foton had already sold the brand to Ucar in 2019, whose owner, Lu Zhengyao, was embroiled in a financial scandal. Before these two brands that had dared to venture beyond national borders, even Qoros – which had also achieved EuroNcap 5 stars in European crash tests with the 3 sedan – had gone adrift looking for an outlet on the Old Continent market. In 2018, it made it known that it wanted to offer 16 new models by 2022.