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Low entry barrier makes EV field too competitive for Dyson
THE reason it was even conceivable for Dyson to make an electric car may also have been why its project was doomed to fail: They are simply too easy to make.
The British company, best known for its expensive vacuum cleaners, has now abandoned its £2 billion (S$3.45 billion) plan to branch out and take on the likes of Tesla and Volkswagen.
Whereas cars with a combustion engine need about 30,000 components, an electric vehicle needs just 11,000 parts, according to research from Goldman Sachs Group.
That reduction in complexity has lowered the barriers to entry for the car market, and caused a surge in the number of new carmakers.
Dozens of startups have entered the fray over the past few years, from Tesla and Lucid Motors in the US, to Byton and NIO in China. Since 2011, electric vehicle startups have raised US$18 billion in funding, and announced 43 models and the capacity to make 3.9 million vehicles a year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That's a lot of competition.
While Dyson's £1.1 billion of ebitda in 2018 gave the relatively small British manufacturer some money to play with, standing out from the electric vehicle crowd would have been quite the challenge. And those earnings are a drop in the ocean compared to the wealth of the automotive giants who are waking up to the epochal shift away from dirty combustion engines.
Volkswagen alone has plans to invest US$52 billion in electrification with at least 2 million electric vehicles a year by 2025. Its existing network of dealerships in 153 countries will make it easier to sell those cars.
Dyson would also have needed a faster return on its investment than the established carmakers to keep the project going. The small size and embryonic nature of this market would have made that difficult. Just 575,000 electric vehicles were sold globally in the three months through June. That's 3.7 per cent of the overall automotive market. The ambitions of the British company, controlled by the billionaire inventor James Dyson, won't be the last to fall by the wayside. Others are struggling. Shares in NIO, a Shanghai-based firm backed by Tencent Holdings and Baidu, have fallen 86 per cent from a post-IPO peak; and Faraday Future, a Chinese-backed, US-based rival, teetered on the brink of insolvency before clawing itself back from the edge.
Given the brutal environment, Mr Dyson's retreat looks wise. In a letter to employees, he admitted he saw no way to make a car "commercially viable". Better then, to concentrate resources on core competencies. A failure at a later date would have been much more painful, and potentially ruinous. BLOOMBERG