Chinese startup car manufacturer Byton is putting the finishing touches to its Nanjing plant that is promising to produce its first cars in July, while the firm at the crossroads of auto and tech has also been pulling in as much foreign and Chinese talent as possible from other car companies to make sure those promises are fulfilled.
Electric car startup Byton’s assembly plant in Nanjing is a big place indeed, sitting on a 800,000 square-metre plot of land in the Longtan Sub District of Qixia District, not far from Longtan port that will be key to later exports.
Security was tight around the site when The Nanjinger visited. No wonder, given that the first prototypes of the most-talked-about electric car since Tesla, leading to validation prototypes, will be coming off the real series-production line in days, rather than months.
As well as being just plain big, the Byton Nanjing facility boasts some pretty impressive technologies on the inside. 335 Kuka robots, that have been customised in “Byton gold”, make the welding shop 99 percent automated. Elsewhere inside the massive plant is the stamping shop, which can complete a body panel every 3 seconds, making it one of the fastest such facilities in China, according to industry publication Robotics & Automation News.
Byton has never been far from the headlines, not least on account of the constant and now legendary bickering between founders Carsten Breitfeld and Daniel Kirchert. The former recently left the firm “to start a new adventure within the start-up industry”.
The incident has led to the hiring of some pretty big guns in the auto industry. In the last 2 weeks, Byton announced that it had appointed veteran engineer, Andy Ball, as vice president for project management; his job to steer product development and ensure the vehicles are delivered on schedule. Ball has worked for Ford in Europe and Asia for 15 years; in addition to other posts, he was also Chief Engineer at the company’s vehicle engineering centre in Nanjing.
In May, another high profile appointment came in the form of David Twohig as Chief Technical Officer, a seasoned automotive engineering executive with over 26 years of international experience in automotive design and development. Twohig was also previously Chief Engineer, for Alpine and Renault.
The two are at the head of a team of some 1,600 people, many of whom also poached from existing automotive companies.
Byton became well-known initially for the radical new design of its cars’ fascia; a wraparound display and wheel-integrated screen (it stays put while the steering wheel spins) that meet global safety standards. The firm is planning the first deliveries of cars in China by the end of this year, with the USA to follow as its second target market.