Future Mobility Confident Over Gaining China’s Approval For 2019 EV Launch

China-based electric carmaker Future Mobility Corp. is sticking to its plan to launch an electric SUV by late 2019, even if government approval gets dragged out longer.

The startup founded by former BMW and Nissan executives has courted enough financial backers to start building a $1.7 billion factory in Nanjing, but the regulatory process needed to gain a manufacturing license in China could still be about two years away. Given that, CEO Carsten Breitfeld says the first model will be ready for sale by late 2019.

Breitfeld, who left BMW last year after leading development of the i8 plug-in hybrid performance sports car, said the startup will outsource production overseas if needed to stay on track.

“Even if the time frame for the permit slips, there’s the option to use excess capacity at plants of other carmakers or use contract manufacturing,” he said in an interview in Munich.

Future Mobility has gained a few large investors, including internet giant Tencent Holdings, electronics manufacturer Foxconn, and car dealership group China Harmony New Energy Auto Holding. It’s impressed auto executives and design engineers to come over from BMW, Nissan, and Tesla.

The company will be follow the electric SUV with a sedan and minivan built on the same platform, Breitfeld said. Tesla seems to have inspired the company, but BYD Co. may be a more likely direct competitor with its EVs being priced in the $40,000 to $50,000 range. The battery pack will be stay more affordable for now with about 186 miles of range, he said.

The startup automaker has yet to release a concept sketch of its SUV or any other future models. Its marketing message has been more focused on smart mobility features in the interior and next-generation technology like automated driving. Connectivity to smartphones and intuitive touchscreens is a hallmark the design team is looking for.

“What’ll set our cars apart will be the interior,” Breitfeld said. “We want our cars to have a user experience akin to the iPhone,” he said.

The company’s website describes Future Mobility as an international company with Chinese roots. Offices are located in Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Beijing, Munich, and Silicon Valley; there’s also the Nanjing factory near Shanghai.

Once the government permits come through, the Nanjing factory will have an initial capacity of 150,000 units a year with the ability to double that output, the company said in January.

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Ten auto startups have received production permits so far in China, including Chongqing Sokon Industry Group Co. That company has been advised by Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard. Auto parts giant Wanxiang Group, which owns Karma Automotive, was given the green light in December to produce EVs in China.

Like other startups and large Chinese automakers, Breitfeld is confident about his company’s future with support coming from Chinese government subsidies.

China’s leaders have set the goal of seeing two million in annual sales of “new energy vehicles” – battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles – by 2020. That would be about a four-fold increase from last year’s 507,000 new energy vehicles sold in China.

China has become the world’s largest market for plug-in electrified vehicle sales. However, subsidies set for vehicle manufacturing and consumer rebates are starting to decline and may go away after 2020.

The Detroit News


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