Twenty minutes ago, as soon as Dai Lei, CEO of byton automobile, had just finished his five hour board meeting, he immediately organized a telephone meeting all hands meeting for all employees in China. In a low tone, the head of the so-called China hand announced to 892 employees on the other end of the phone that bytons mainland business would be suspended from July 1, leaving only a small number of employees on duty.
(Dai Lei, CEO of byton Auto Company Limited
The news is not surprising. In just two weeks, byton, which has been running in disorder for a year, has experienced countless dark moments in the eyes of the outside world. With debts of 8.6 billion, Beijing and Shanghai offices have withdrawn rent, offices in North America and Germany have applied for bankruptcy, and Nanjing headquarters has stopped production and shutdown. The total number of employees in the world will rapidly decrease from about 1500 to more than 100.
Baiteng, a new elite student born with a golden spoon and high hopes in the past, lost his aura and made a car in a broken dream.
Employees from all over the country seek information through as many channels as possible, and keenly capture every minute decision-making trend of the management and shareholders. A number of vice president level management have established a small-scale wechat group to synchronize messages with employees. In a sense, they are the real public relations team of Byron.
Chinas new car building wave has come to an end, and the real life and death competition is more cruel than imagined. Before the first mass production model could be driven off the PPT, Byron was defeated before the battle and left the field.
/The money burned out, but the car didnt come out/
Back to five years ago, when the new car building movement was booming, no one could have predicted that the first person to fall would be Byron. At that time, byton was a star enterprise comparable to Weilai, with high starting point, strong background and luxurious team configuration.
CEO Bi Fukang is the father of I8 of BMW. Dai Lei, the president, once served as the general manager of Infiniti in China. Ye Chenhuan, vice president of design, once served as the vice president of design at BMW.
Attracted by star executives, byton has gathered a large number of great men from apple, Google, BMW, Ford, Mazda, Tesla, Infiniti and other big companies. Some people chose to settle in the city again because of byton, while others refused the offer of Weilai.
At that time, the unique team of byton was not worried about money, and investors who wanted to pay for it queued up.
In 2018, byton B raised $500 million, which is the only new car company invested by Ningde times, a leading power battery enterprise. A person familiar with the matter told futureauto daily that a large state-owned enterprise wanted to add hundreds of millions of yuan in round B, and clearly expressed the willingness to follow the B + round. Daley has also said that the B round of financing, or a Byron initiative to refuse investors. According to official public data, byton has raised $800 million before round C.
Bytons first mass-produced car, m-byte, has also attracted extensive attention with its global pioneer design with a 48 Inch screen across the central control and a rotatable front seat. According to people familiar with the matter, bytons car was once a reference for BBAs internal planning of future models.
The first mass production vehicle of byton m-byte
In order to match the tonality of high-end brands, byton insists on the principle of the most expensive and the best in supplier selection.
The whole vehicle production line equipment benchmarking Tesla, the R & D investment of some parts far exceeds the luxury car standard. People close to the project said that byton had outsourced the vehicle controller (VCU) to Bosch, a top German supplier, at a development price of nearly 100 million yuan, while the development price of VCU on the market was about several million yuan. Byton and Deloitte also have eight digit consulting projects.
Around 2018, byton and seeingmachines, a world-famous DMS (driver monitoring system) development company in Australia, announced a project cooperation of nearly 50 million US dollars. People familiar with the matter said byten stressed at the time that everything should be at the top of the line..
In order to benchmarking international luxury car brands, byton attaches importance to every detail of building brand image.
Source of business card of byton employees: photos provided by interviewees
In 2018, the North American office with more than 300 employees spent more than $7 million on snacks procurement alone, which is equivalent to nearly $20000 of snacks eaten by each person in a year. Byton rented a whole floor office on the 26th floor of No.1 building, Raffles Plaza, Changning, Shanghai. Employees strolled around after lunch, talking about when to launch the luxury electric car brand on the market and get options.
In the words of employees, byton used to be a local tyrant and spending money like a waterfall.
Until the beginning of this year, when the companys cash flow was already very tight, byton still decided to spend money on a separate 3D modeling promo for the factory, on the grounds of showing it to investors.. In January 2020, when participating in the CES exhibition in North America, byton spent about $300000 to airlift the car to the United States and then sea it back. The cost was much higher than the market price of 110000 yuan.
A number of beiteng insiders told the future auto daily that mainstream auto companies have perfect and strong management systems, and the project funds are controlled by the cost control and compliance departments. In byton, the project budget and additional budget expenditures only require the VP of the Department to nod, and directly get money from the finance after approval, which lacks control.
As a result, the money burned out, but the car was not built.
At the end of 2018, after the completion of round B financing of US $500 million, the attitude of the investment circle towards the new forces of car making has changed dramatically, and Byron has also encountered financing bottlenecks.
With the sudden resignation of bificom as CEO of byt in April 2019, financing is basically in vain.. Bytons core employees told future auto daily, the companys c-round financing announced to the outside world is 500 million US dollars, but actually signed less than 200 million US dollars, the actual accounts received less than 50 million US dollars.
From the second half of 2019, Dai Lei and Ding Qingfen, chief executive officer of byton, and other management levels began to make crazy changes, but opportunities were rare. Whats more, Daley, who was born in marketing, has limited resources in the capital circle. The story of foreigners starting businesses in China repeatedly emphasized by byton is hard to resonate with and be recognized in Chinas capital circle.
Future auto daily learned that among the c-round investors disclosed by byton, only Marubeni Co. of Japan and myoungshinco., a subsidiary of South Korean component manufacturer MS autotech, have injected capital. The former claimed to cooperate with byton to promote energy storage projects, but the investment amount was only several million US dollars; after the latter successively invested one tenth of the agreed investment amount, it suspended the follow-up capital injection on the ground that investors had run away.
Bytons core employees said that as of the end of May this year, the total book capital of bytons head office and its subsidiaries, whose accounts were frozen, was only more than 1 million yuan.
This is a drop in the bucket for Byron.
Since December last year, beiteng has been in arrears for several months even for a payment of 2000 yuan from suppliers, and many projects of the company have been stranded due to lack of money. Beiteng insiders said, the company now receives hundreds of complaints, and purchasing colleagues have to run several lawsuits every week.
The word lack of money became a curse to hold Byrons fate.
/The CD war intensified, suffering from the disease of large companies/
The brilliant resume of the founding team not only endows byton with glory, but also inevitably brings big company disease to the start-up company. The professional experience of senior managers in top 500 enterprises makes it difficult for them to really put down their posture and practice the entrepreneurial spirit.
In January 2020, two months before the wage cut-off in byton China, Daley still took the first-class cabin to attend ces. During his term of office, Bifukang would also order the best red wine in the shop.
According to the evaluation of beiteng insiders, byton automobile is a car building project of the management (harmonious Futeng). Bi Fukang and Daley, the two leaders of the company, are semi professional managers, lacking a sense of mission and urgency to start a business. The companys foreign executives did not really go to the front line to understand the specific situation, strictly implemented the five-day work system, the work rhythm was loose, seldom worked overtime on weekends, and some foreign executives even couldnt contact people during the epidemic.
No one is really responsible for the company. A number of employees who joined byton in the early days lamented that when the company has come to this stage, foreign management led by Daley has great problems.
A more serious problem is that the CD wars (Carsten breitfeld, bificom and Daniel kirchert Daley) are intensifying.
Bifukang and Daley had a honeymoon. Internal staff said that in the early team building process, Dai Lei was introduced by Bifukang. However, due to their different standpoints and personalities, their internal contradictions gradually became public and even degenerated into mutual dissension.
Bi Fukangs resources are overseas, and his ambition is to expand his overseas influence. After taking office, bificom expanded rapidly in the United States, controlling the core business of byton automobile such as product technology, R & D, supply chain, manufacturing, qualification, etc. Bytons heavy overseas team configuration once made the outside world think that it was an American company.
Unlike Bi Fukang, who was extremely ambitious, Daley was hesitant and soft, and his power was constantly squeezed. At that time, he was only responsible for the market, recruitment and financial work in China. According to the recollection of byton employees, during the preparatory period of cesasia in June 2018, the two sides of CD argued about the length and sequence of speeches when the k-byte concept car first appeared in the world, and they did not give in.
A key person close to the top management of byt disclosed that the board of directors of byt has a total of 9 voting rights, and any major decision of the company must be approved by the board of directors with no less than 2 / 3 of the votes. In 2018, Feng Changge, chairman of harmony Auto, an early investor of byton, had three voting rights and Bi Fukang had one. Both sides jointly controlled the development of the company by voting against it. People familiar with the matter told future auto daily that Bifukang and Feng Changge are closely related and often visit each others luxury homes in Los Angeles.
In mid-2018, the management conflict in the b-round financing of Byron made the relationship between Cd and CD expand rapidly.
From left to right are Bi Fukang, Feng Changge and Dai Lei source: Official wechat of byton automobile
In the process of CD war, there are many high-level factions, lack of cohesion, the organizational system can not work normally, and cross team cooperation is difficult to achieve.
In 2018, there were two VPS in many departments of this company with less than 2000 employees. In addition to VP, some departments also set up SVP (senior vice president). A former beiteng North American employee once told 36 krypton that byton has 29 VPS at most, while Weilai automobile has only 17 VPS at the scale of nearly 10000 people.
The long-lasting CD war ended with the defeat of Bifukang.
On January 25, byton announced in an internal e-mail that the companys governance structure was adjusted, with Daley as the CEO, and a number of management levels closely related to bificom left in the following months. It is inevitable for Bifukang to leave.
Within byton, there is a lack of benign communication channels and effective communication mechanism between departments and superior and subordinate. For example, in accordance with the normal process, byton electronics team and power systems team should discuss together to promote the project after reaching a consensus, but in fact, there is little communication between the two sides.
Many important information of the company is difficult for employees to obtain through official channels. More than one byton employee said, people dont actually believe the grapevine at first, but later they find that the grapevine is true, and its very important, such as the real financial situation of the company.
A number of insiders of byt told the future auto daily that the core problem of byton was that the rules were not well formulated, and the company lacked a sound management system, resulting in huge internal consumption of the company. Ding Qingfen, Huang Rui, Duan Lianxiang, vice president of R & D in China, and Yingwang, general manager of Nanjing factory, tried to turn the situation around in various ways, but they were unable to turn the tide.
The loopholes in the management system foreshadowed the outcome of Byron today.
There is an unshirkable responsibility for the out of control of R & D progress caused by imperfect management system.
Headquartered in China, with its early market and core market in China, byton has put its products, technology and R & D overseas. Beiteng North America R & D team is responsible for the important R & D business such as Internet of vehicles, automatic driving, vehicle three electricity, etc., and is equipped with market and business teams with a total number of nearly 400 people. The R & D team of byton in Nanjing is about 400 people, and the ratio of both sides is close to 1:1. The R & D personnel of another new car company told futureauto daily that the proportion of Chinese and foreign R & D teams of Chinese automobile enterprises is about 8:1.
In terms of R & D, the North American office has absolute say, and the team in China can only do some localization improvement and test verification on the basis of R & D in North America. After finding R & D problems, Chinese employees do not have the right to make technical adjustments directly. They need to obtain approval from North America first. However, the other party often requires to clarify the responsibility.
Cross cultural, cross regional, cross language, cross time differences lead to a lot of time-consuming ineffective communication, which makes the R & D efficiency of byton low, and the first mass production vehicle originally scheduled for October 2019 SOP has been repeatedly postponed.
In December of last year, when the technical problems of mass production vehicles could not be solved, the R & D team in China strongly demanded that the R & D business in North America be transferred to China, and proposed to clarify the role of R & D personnel in China, that is, decision maker or coordinator. But many attempts to communicate with management failed.
In May this year, Daley promised China employees that it would move its R & D focus and dominant power to China, but has not fulfilled the promise since then. At the meeting, they still insisted that the development work was dominated by North America, which was strongly opposed by the staff of the Chinese R & D team. The meeting ended with collective anger of Chinese employees.
From the middle of 2019, the companys R & D is basically beyond recognition. According to a Byron R & D personnel, the early stage of R & D work is in a rough development stage, and only when some product definitions need to be implemented at a certain stage can problems be exposed, and it is found that some underlying technical foundation is missing.
Baidu CTO avid two records video at the door of North America Office
Prior to that, abechen, former vice president of digital technology R & D, was responsible for the central gateway. He was the product and information security director of Tesla and Weilai automobile, helping Tesla establish a complete set of product and information security networks from scratch. In the same month that bificom left Byron, abechen, who was close to bifukan, left and joined ICONIQ with him. After abechen left, the research and development of the central gateway has basically stagnated, said a person familiar with the matter
On the other hand, byton spent a lot of unjustified money in the early stage of procurement, and many projects ended in vain. According to people familiar with the matter, the DMS project cooperated by byton and seeingmachines in Australia ended its cooperation in the a sample stage, and the VCU and L3 automatic driving projects cooperated with Bosch did not come to an end.
According to people familiar with the matter, the pre-sale price of bytons first mass production car in North America is 45000 US dollars (about 317800 yuan), and the normal analysis vehicle cost should be controlled at 28000 dollars. However, due to the fact that the pricing team greatly underestimated the cost of parts (the actual cost is at least twice the estimated cost), the supplier found that the cost of the whole vehicle had exceeded the pre-sale price after the purchase cost was included.
In addition, the lack of professional team is also one of the reasons for the continuous delay of bytons first mass production vehicle.
Industry insiders told the future auto daily that the whole vehicle factory commissioned parts manufacturers to produce, just to reduce the cost of the vehicle, not to be a shopkeeper. The vehicle factory itself needs to understand the technology and products. Many technologies in new energy vehicles need to match and integrate with each other. These technologies are not spent a lot of money, but people who really understand the technology are needed. Tesla, Volkswagen, Benz, BMW and other companies have software engineers with strong professional ability. They write software and do calibration. Bosch and other suppliers play the role of OEM and mass production of hardware.
Companies that are really serious about making products will go to parts companies to dig people. An employee who has worked in a global head parts company for more than ten years said that new car manufacturing enterprises such as Weilai, Xiaopeng and Weima would deal with upstream companies in the industrial chain in the early stage, but byton had little contact with them.
Within the vehicle factory, mass production of vehicles is a big time axis. In addition to the adjustment of production and R & D system, all work such as sales and after-sales service system must be planned according to this timeline. The continuous delay of SOP means that all internal work has to be adjusted or even shelved.
At present, bytons first mass production vehicle is in the VP (verification prototype) stage. If the product planning and design to the new car mass production are regarded as from 0 to 1, about 70% of it has been completed. Under normal circumstances, it will take at least 10 months to get to SOP, according to byton employees.
Of course, the premise is that the company can operate normally, someone takes over the offer and has money to come in.
/Geely treasure can start to tune, who will take the plate Byron? /
After burning up the last sum of money, he owed a lot of debt, leaving a mess of no car to sell. Who will take the plate has become a choice question in front of Byron without the right to choose.
Future auto daily learned from people close to the top management of byt that there were two topics discussed by the board of directors of byt on June 29: one was to determine the companys personnel reduction plan and the implementation plan of leaving the company without pay; the other was to discuss the internal restructuring plan of the company, including the overall idea of restructuring and the specific implementation plan for the establishment of a new company.
This is a three party game (the three major shareholders of byton), and there is also a game between the three parties and the management of byton. This situation will not result in a short period of time. People familiar with the matter said.
At present, the top four shareholders of byton are harmony automobile, Nanjing Development Zone, FAW Group, management and employee shareholding of byton, ranking in no particular order.
Among them, FAW Group shares less than 20%. According to the b-round investment agreement, FAW and byton originally planned to jointly develop the red flag code named eq320 pure electric vehicle based on byton m-byte technology. In addition, among the annual production capacity of 150000 units at bytons Nanjing plant, 50000 were originally scheduled to be used to produce Hongqi eq320 pure electric vehicles. The project was suspended at the end of March this year and was liquidated.
At the end of June 2019, people who could participate in the VP level meeting of Byron told 36 krypton that at that time, byton froze a large number of external expenditure items, only paid staff salaries and promoted some factory projects, and the salary for employees also came from the bridge loan of about $20 million per month.
Since 2019, the board of directors has repeatedly asked the management to substantially reduce overseas personnel and move the intellectual property and R & D departments to China, but Daley is still adamant. Until the beginning of this year, I thought there was a turnaround in Byron, an employee close to byts management told future auto daily
Source: photos provided by interviewees
At the same time, Baoneng and Geely are contacting byton to become two potential suppliers.
In the first ten days of April, Baoneng automobile began to contact byton, and then launched the final adjustment. People familiar with the matter told future auto daily that at that time, Baoneng had just brought Changan PSA under its command, and it was not very enthusiastic to acquire Byron.
On May 29, future auto daily exclusively reported Baonengs efforts to tune byton. Just the day before this, Geely sent people to inspect beitengs Nanjing factory. People familiar with the situation said that Geely mainly wanted to know about the R & D and factory situation of Byron, and its investment enthusiasm was limited.
A person close to the management of byt disclosed that the two companies were not enthusiastic about investing in Byron. After the media exposure, both sides lost interest in Byron. Things are very delicate. Now Baoneng and Geely cant take over the offer..
Byton China is expected to stop operation for six months, and may end the shutdown ahead of schedule if conditions improve in all aspects, according to HR Director of byton China. Prior to that, on June 10, beiteng Nanjing factory was cut off because of its arrears of more than 100 million yuan of project funds from China Construction Second Engineering Bureau. On June 23, nearly 100 employees of byton Motor Co., Ltd. in Nanjing collectively defended their rights and asked the company to pay hundreds of millions of wages in arrears.
On July 3, Chinas official website of byton still maintained the original decoration facade, displaying the two models of Byron m-byte and k-byte and byton experience space, which seems to be waiting for a restart in the near future. People familiar with the matter told futureauto daily that byton may set up a new technology company.
No one knows if Byron can get back together. For now, at least, all parties are trying to minimize losses before Byron completely stops.
Source: future auto daily editor: Chen Hequn_ NB12679