UAE eyed by new Tesla competitor

31 Jan 2020

The new concept SUV known as the Byton M-Byte comes with a 48-inch screen that covers the dashboard, with a touchscreen taking over the steering wheel.

The vehicle was in a parking lot of a hotel in Abu Dhabi last week, as the company’s founders tried to sell their idea of a “smart device on wheels” to potential investors, sales partners and technology co-developers in the United Arab Emirates.

Daniel Kirchert, the chief executive and co-founder of Byton, told the National that the UAE is the right place for the company to be, as it has some of the best infrastructure in the world and a leadership with a vision for renewable energy and electric vehicles.

The Chinese start-up company is to produce 150 M-Byte SUVs from its Nanjing production line by the close of 2020, which are heading to driveways in China.

Kirchert says that these 150 will be the first fulfilled orders from the 60,000 orders that have been placed all over the world.

The brand launched three years ago back in 2017 and is taking on a formidable opponent in the form of Tesla, which is responsible for selling the Model 3, the world’s most popular electric vehicle last year.

The Model 3 sold almost triple the number of vehicles of its nearest competitor, the BAIC EU-Series.

However, that vehicle is slightly more expensive than the Byton M-Byte, priced at $50,000 in comparison to the newcomer’s starting price of $45,000.

Car manufacturers would have to invest almost $75bn to try to compete with the breakthrough technology that Byton is hoping to be able to lead the field in, a study conducted by McKinsey last year indicated.

This technology includes the likes of autonomous driving, electrification, car sharing and 5G mobile connectivity.

The study warned that although enormous value would almost certainly be generated by the new tech, where or when that economic profit would begin to flow is by no means certain.

However, Kirchert is one of the people who have decided to take a chance.

The German entrepreneur began at the likes of BMW and Infiniti and says that the legacy brands in the automotive market have not prepared themselves for the coming changes in car trends.

Byton is interested in diversifying its shareholder base, and is looking for investors from the Middle East as well as North America and Europe.

In addition to regional investors, the company is also trying to court potential UAE distribution partners so that the car will be available in the country, in addition to tech partners that are able to tailor offerings to expats and Arabic-speaking customers.

Anyone who is driving any form of vehicle in the UAE still needs to take out a basic form of third-party car insurance as a legal requirement.