Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics company that builds the Apple iPhone, moved a big step closer to getting into the car business, rolling out three new electric vehicle prototypes.
The company doesn’t necessarily plan to create a car company of its own. Instead, it appears more interested in supplying the EV prototypes to other companies which, like Apple, don’t want to set up their own manufacturing operations. With Apple reportedly looking for a partner for its own car project, that could be one possibility.
Foxconn already has lined up deals with at least one EV startup. The Taiwanese firm expects to build a new battery-electric SUV for Fisker that goes by the codename Project PEAR. Production may take place in Ohio at a plant Foxconn has an agreement in place to purchase from another struggling startup, Lordstown Motors, for $230 million.
Foxconn targets three different BEV segments
At HHTD21, an annual event where it shows off its latest products and technologies, Foxconn rolled out three battery-electric prototypes:
- The Model C is a seven-seat SUV that could launch from 0-100 kmh, or 62 mph, in just 3.8 seconds. Foxconn claims it could deliver up to 700 kilometers, or 435 miles, per charge;
- The Model E is a large luxury sedan that would bump range to 750 km, or 466 miles. It can make 750 horsepower from its twin electric motors, enough to hit 62 mph in 2.8 seconds; and
- The Model T, a battery-electric bus that would yield about 400 km, or 250 miles range and deliver a top speed of about 120 kmh, or 75 mph.
Prices for production models could start in the $35,000 range, according to a report in Taiwan’s media.
The names might strike automotive fans as familiar, picking up on the nomenclature used by Tesla with products like the Models S, X, Y and 3. But Foxconn would also have to watch out for a cease-and-desist from Ford Motor Co. if it were to use those names for production purposes. The Ford Model T is, of course, one of the auto industry’s icons. (The Detroit automaker also retains rights to the name, Model E. And it prevented Tesla from using that designation for its small sedan, which is why it became the Model 3.)
Looking for partners
During the Monday debut, Foxconn officials made clear that they don’t actually want to set up their own car brand. Instead, they want to partner with fledgling BEV companies looking for a shortcut into the business. All three of the prototypes unveiled at the HHTD21 event share the same skateboard-style platform and it could be used for numerous other products.
That’s the plan that Fisker has come up with. The company, founded by Danish designer Henrik Fisker, will launch its first model in the coming months. The Fisker Ocean will be produced in Austria by contract manufacturer Magna-Steyr. The body has been designed by Fisker but Ocean will utilize a skateboard platform developed by Magna.
Fisker wants to repeat that strategy with Project Pear, but the company intends to use Foxconn’s new platform for that model, and build it at Lordstown facility.
The Taiwanese firm, in turn, has been looking to set up several assembly plants. Along with one in China, it is considering using a site in Wisconsin that was originally set to produce flat panel TVs. Meanwhile, it has struck a preliminary deal with struggling Lordstown Motors to acquire that company’s factory in Ohio.
The Lordstown plant was originally owned by General Motors and was set to produce the Lordstown Endurance, an all-electric pickup. But a short-seller research company earlier this year revealed that the automaker’s initial sales claims were false. Lordstown has seen its stock come crashing down even as it faces a federal investigation.
Under the tentative deal, Foxconn would take over the Lordstown, Ohio plant and manufacture the Lordstown Endurance.
Could Foxconn team up with Apple — again?
The factory could also be used to build production versions of the three Foxconn concept vehicles — if the company can find other partners willing to market them.
There is yet another possible partner. Apple is believed to be looking for a way to manufacturer its long-rumored Apple Car. It failed to work out a deal with Hyundai Motor Group and has since talked with other established automakers — reportedly including Toyota. With their long-standing iPhone relationship, some observers believe Apple could look to Foxconn to produce its vehicle. Neither company has yet commented on that possibility.