Startup Byton: electric cars aren't the innovation; connectivity, personal tech features are Page 2


Teaser image of Byton electric SUV to be launched at CES 2018, Las Vegas

Teaser image of Byton electric SUV to be launched at CES 2018, Las Vegas

Enlarge Photo

"We completely shifted the focus and reinterpreted the DNA of the vehicle," said Byton's vice president of marketing, Henrik Wenders. (He, too, spent time at BMW, 14 years in his case.)

At that company, he said, the focus is on sheer driving pleasure and the driver's seat is the most important one in the vehicle. "I think this holds true for the last 100 years," he said, "but for the next 100 years, it's going to be different."

"In the next 100 years, it's not about drivers and passengers: It's about users. Every single seat in a vehicle is going to be equally important."

That said, one of Byton's defining features will be a steering-wheel mounted 8-inch touch screen to provide the driver with another place to get information.

Teaser image of Byton electric SUV dash display and interior, to be launched at CES 2018, Las Vegas

Teaser image of Byton electric SUV dash display and interior, to be launched at CES 2018, Las Vegas

Enlarge Photo

The company's cars will be connected to something called Byton Life, which keeps your personal in-vehicle preferences—seating position, music, contacts, calendar, etc.—in the cloud.

Whether you only share your vehicle with a partner or spouse, or with hundreds of people through a car-sharing service, face-recognition cameras will know who you are and make sure the car is set up just the way you want it.

Touches like this are part of what Byton representatives meant when they said, many times during the day, that the car actually represents a "next-generation smart device" instead of just a new car.

But a car is involved, of course. Three, actually, all built on the same Byton platform.

Teaser image of Byton electric SUV dash display and interior, to be launched at CES 2018, Las Vegas

Teaser image of Byton electric SUV dash display and interior, to be launched at CES 2018, Las Vegas

Enlarge Photo

The  premium mid-size SUV that the company will unveil in January at CES 2018 will go on sale the following year, starting in China, Byton says.

A sedan will follow in 2021, and then a European-style Multi-Purpose Vehicle (small minivan) is to arrive in 2022.

All three vehicles will be built at the company's production facility in Nanjing, China, which will have an annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles when finished.

Construction began in September 2017, and the total investment in the plant is said to be $1.1 billion.

2019 BMW i8

2019 BMW i8

Enlarge Photo

If Byton's timetable sounds a bit … short ... to you, Breitfeld's response is to point to the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sport coupe.

That vehicle went from idea to reality within the giant corporate structure at BMW in about 38 months, he said.

Through it, he first saw what is possible in the new electric-vehicle age.

That makes him more than comfortable rolling in fashionably late to the global EV party.

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