Taipei: Tech giant Foxconn, which makes iPhones for Apple, unveiled two more electric vehicle prototypes on Tuesday, including a pickup truck, as it said commercial production on two other designs would start later this year.
In so doing, the company says it doesn't pose a direct competitor to Tesla, currently the EV market and tech leader. Instead, Foxconn aims to supply nearly half of world’s EVs, as the Taiwanese contract electronics group says it hopes one day to build "Tesla cars for Tesla".
The world's largest contract electronics maker, Foxconn already plays a lynchpin role in assembling gadgets for a host of top international brands including Apple's iPhones.
The company has moved to diversify beyond electronics assembly and embraced the competitive but rapidly expanding EV business, unveiling three concept cars last year.
Model B, Model V
Foxconn chairman Young Liu showed off two more prototypes at Tuesday's media event in Taipei — a sporty hatchback dubbed the Model B and a pickup, the Model V.
He also announced that commercial production would start by the end of the year on the group's previously unveiled electric bus and a family sports utility vehicle.
"Foxconn has cut in half the design time and reduced development cost by a third in taking an EV from concept to production-ready," Liu said.
Strategy: Contract builder
Foxconn plans to do with electric vehicles what it did for gadgets — become a go-to contract builder.
Its strategy is to construct vehicles for clients rather than sell them under its own name, using the prototypes as a guide.
Liu said one of its clients, Taipei-based automaker Luxgen, had received 15,000 customer pre-orders in under two days for its N7 car, which is based on the Foxconn Model C unveiled last year.
Foxconn has also started building electric vehicles for Lordstown Motors after completing its purchase of a former General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio in May.
This month, it signed a memorandum of understanding with US-based INDIEV Inc to build the first INDI One prototype EV at its Ohio facility.
Its partners also include Fisker, one of a host of US-based electronic car startups hoping to someday challenge Tesla's supremacy.
Fisker has recently reaffirmed plans to have Foxconn build its upcoming Fisker Pear model at the Ohio factory starting in 2024.
It has been widely reported for years that Apple has a secret electronic car project, something Foxconn could be in an ideal place to partner on given its existing relationship with the California-based giant.
Concept car unveiling
In October last year, Foxconn Technology Group unveiled its first electric vehicles, a milestone that could boost the electronics manufacturer's credentials as a serious bidder for Apple Inc.'s secretive automotive project.
The SUV and sedan models introduced are concept vehicles the manufacturer said it plans to build for automotive customers rather than sell under its own brand. Executives including Young Liu, chairman of Foxconn's flagship unit Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., 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 U.S. company weighs expanding into vehicles. As part of its aggressive push into cars, Foxconn agreed in late September to spend $280 million on the purchase of an auto plant in Ohio from embattled startup Lordstown Motors Corp.
"We are no longer the new kid in town," Liu said. "We have gradually built an EV supply chain and showcased our EV hardware."
Moreover, Taiwan's Yulon Motor Co. will be Foxconn's first electric-car customer, Lilian Chen, Yulon's chairwoman, 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.
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 favor is its strong relationship with the U.S. 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 Motor Co. 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 Inc., Volkswagen AG and Hyundai Motor Co. 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 Inc. and a partnership with Thailand's state-owned conglomerate PTT Pcl. It's also struck pacts with Stellantis NV and Zhejiang Geely Holding.