Picture: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR
Picture: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR

Foxconn Technology Group unveiled its first electric vehicles, a milestone that could boost the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer’s credentials as a serious bidder for Apple’s secretive automotive project.

The SUV 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 Young Liu, chairperson of Foxconn’s flagship unit Hon Hai Precision Industry Company, 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 US company weighs expanding into vehicles. As part of its aggressive push into cars, Foxconn agreed in late September to spend $280m 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 Company will be Foxconn’s first electric-car customer, Lilian Chen, Yulon’s chairperson, said at the Taipei event. Yulon’s electric sedan built by Foxconn is set to retail for less than NT$1-million ($35,700,) Liu 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% in Taipei, and Yulon lost 4.8%.

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, 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 US consumer-electronics giant. The years-long partnership has expanded as Apple has added product categories, and the company now accounts for about 50% of Foxconn’s annual sales.

Any Apple automobile is still years away and the company has suffered setbacks including the recent departure of the head of its car project to Ford. An Apple car has for years been somewhat of a paradox — it’s 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 person familiar with its schedule.

In comparison, carmakers such as Tesla, Volkswagen and Hyundai 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’s also struck pacts with Stellantis and Zhejiang Geely Holding.

Bloomberg. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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