The COVID-19 crisis has touched all of us, and certainly every automaker. We learn today that the latest electric car manufacturer to be forced to make staffing cuts (*see edit below) in order to stay financially secure is Byton.
The Chinese EV startup has recently put roughly half of the staff of 450 employees working in their Santa Clara, California facility on furlough, according to the website, Electrek.
We reached out to Byton and received confirmation that indeed the furloughs are happening. We were also able to get a quote from Byton's public relations:
“The Coronavirus pandemic has rattled the global economy to its foundations and the auto industry is naturally taking a hard hit. Facing such an unprecedented worldwide situation, BYTON has taken this necessary measure to weather the hard times ahead and to ensure that we have the resources to minimize the impact on the start-of-production for the M-Byte.”
We're not sure how exactly much the pandemic will affect the launch of the M-Byte SUV, but we are sure it will impact it. Reading into the quote you can see that Byton is already saying they are trying to "minimize the impact of start-of-production", all but confirming that it will be impacted to some extent.
Gallery: BYTON M-Byte
There's nothing really surprising here. While it's tragic for the workers placed on furlough, as well as for their families, it's to be expected under the current conditions. In fact, if Byton wasn't laying off anyone or placing employees on furlough that would be a bigger story.
However, there is some good news for Byton. We reported earlier this week that their Nanjing manufacturing plant is back up and running after mostly shutting down in January because of COVID-19. Byton's CEO Daniel Kirchert tweeted a short video of the Nanjing factory with M-Bytes on the assembly line.
The M-Byte was expected to launch in China in mid-2020 with US and European availability in Q3 of 2021 with a starting price is $45,000. How the timeline will play out after the COVID-19 crisis is anybody's guess at this time. Let's all hope this passes as quickly as possible, and the furloughed workers from Byton, as well as the furloughed employees from all the other companies, can get back to their jobs.
Edit (4/22/20) Byton reached out to us to make a correction to the article. They informed us that they haven't made any "staffing cuts" as we said in the article about. They have "furloughed" employees, which is different, and they intend to bring everyone back to work as soon as possible. They also wanted to make clear that they are still providing healthcare coverage to all of their furloughed employees during this shutdown period.