Chinese EV startup Byton used this month's Frankfurt International Motor Show to unveil the production version of the M-Byte SUV, its first model. However, it did so without its co-founder and the man who served as CEO from the beginning, Carsten Breitfeld.
Breitfeld co-founded Byton together with Daniel Kirchert in early 2016 but left the company suddenly in April. He was named CEO of rival EV startup Faraday Future earlier in September, while Kirchert has taken over the CEO position back at Byton.
In an interview with The Verge published Friday, Breitfeld said he left Byton because of the increased influence of the Chinese government that followed an investment by state-owned automaker FAW Group.
“If the Chinese government enters your company, and takes, to some degree, influence or control, which they did at the end of the day, then things will change,” he said. “My feeling is they are going to drive it to a stage where the whole Byton thing will be shut down, they will just keep the plant and the platform.”
The plant Breitfeld is referring to is the newly constructed site in Nanjing, China, where Byton's headquarters are also located. Byton plans to start production of the M-Byte at the plant in the first half of 2020, with Chinese-market deliveries beginning around the start of the third quarter. If all goes to plan, Byton will start deliveries in European and North American markets in 2021.
Breitfeld, who in a prior role oversaw development of the BMW i8, said in his interview that he doesn't want Byton to fail and that he still has equity in the company, though he said he is still in “not very friendly” discussions with Byton and FAW over the status of that equity.