Apple supplier Foxconn unveils first electric vehicles

The SUV and sedan models are concept vehicles that the manufacturer plans to build for automotive customers.
The SUV and sedan models are concept vehicles that the manufacturer plans to build for automotive customers.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI (BLOOMBERG) - Foxconn Technology Group unveiled its first electric vehicles (EVs), a milestone that could boost the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer's credentials as a serious bidder for Apple's secretive automotive project.

The sports utility vehicle and sedan models introduced on Monday are concept vehicles that the manufacturer plans to build for automotive customers rather than sell under its own brand. Executives, including Mr Young Liu, chairman of Foxconn's flagship unit Hon Hai Precision Industry, unveiled the vehicles at the company's Technology Day event in Taipei.

Foxconn is the largest assembler of iPhones, giving it an edge as a potential carmaker partner for Apple as the American company weighs expanding into vehicles. As part of its aggressive push into cars, Foxconn agreed late last month to spend US$280 million (S$378 million) on the purchase of an auto plant in Ohio from embattled start-up Lordstown Motors.

"We are no longer the new kid in town," Liu said. "We have gradually built an EV supply chain and showcased our EV hardware."

Taiwan's Yulon Motor Co will be Foxconn's first electric car customer, Yulon's chairman Lilian Chen said at the Taipei event.

Yulon's electric sedan built by Foxconn is set to retail for less than NT$1 million (S$48,244), she said.

Foxconn also displayed its electric bus, which will be delivered to a local transportation provider next year.

Shares of Hon Hai declined 1.8 per cent in Taipei, and Yulon lost 4.8 per cent.

Foxconn is among the technology companies targeting EVs as a source of growth beyond low-margin electronics assembly. The Ohio deal is a boon for Foxconn, giving it assembly capacity, equipment and talent, Citigroup analyst Carrie Liu wrote in a recent note.

The company is close to deciding the location for a car plant in Europe, Ms Liu said.

The Apple car would be the ultimate prize for every aspiring EV manufacturer. Working in Foxconn's favour is its strong relationship with the United States consumer electronics giant. The years-long partnership has expanded as Apple has added product categories, and the company now accounts for about 50 per cent of Foxconn's annual sales.

Any Apple car is still years away and the company has suffered setbacks including the recent departure of the head of its car project to Ford Motor. An Apple car has for years been somewhat of a paradox - it is one of its most hotly anticipated products yet the company has publicly said almost nothing about it.

Foxconn has yet to start sales of any vehicle following the debut of its EV platform last year. It plans to start mass production of Lordstown's Endurance electric pickup in Ohio in April, according to a source familiar with its schedule.

In comparison, carmakers such as Tesla, Volkswagen and Hyundai Motor are already churning out EV models and spending billions of dollars on product development and capacity.

Still, Foxconn has made some progress. It has a manufacturing deal with Fisker and a partnership with Thailand's state-owned conglomerate PTT. It has also struck pacts with Stellantis and Zhejiang Geely Holding.