Friday, October 11, 2019

Dyson abruptly scraps electric car project; ‘minimal’ disruption to S’pore workforce, operations

11 October, 2019

SINGAPORE — Barely a year after Dyson announced that it would build its electric car in Singapore, the British technology company announced on Thursday (Oct 10) that it plans to shut down its automotive project.

Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) said the disruption to its operations and workforce in Singapore will be minimal, as Dyson’s decision not to pursue the electric vehicle business was taken at an early stage.

Dyson said it decided to close the project because although its automotive team has developed a “fantastic electric car”, it is not commercially viable.

The company’s founder, Mr James Dyson, said in an email to staff: “We have been through a serious process to find a buyer for the project which has, unfortunately, been unsuccessful so far.”

“This is not a product failure, or a failure of the team, for whom this news will be hard to hear and digest,” he stressed.

The closure of the automotive division will affect about 20 people in Singapore, the company said in an emailed response to CNA.

"We are hoping to find roles for as many people as possible," it added.

"We are in a consultation process at the moment and have sufficient vacancies that we can absorb most of the people affected."

Dyson, famous for making vacuum cleaners, has been in Singapore for more than a decade, with 1,100 employees undertaking a variety of functions including supply chain management, advanced manufacturing, and research and development.

The company announced on Oct 23 last year that it had picked Singapore to manufacture its first electric car, in a bid to challenge Tesla in the hottest sector of the automotive market.

The British manufacturer said then that it will complete the factory by 2020, with a goal of rolling out its first model by 2021.

The choice of Singapore — which doesn’t have a single car-manufacturing plant and is one of the costliest places in the world to buy an automobile — came as Tesla zeroed in on establishing a factory in China.

Then in January this year, Mr Dyson said that he was moving his corporate office and tax registration to Singapore from Britain to be closer to his fastest-growing markets.

Mr Dyson said on Thursday that the company will continue its £2.5 billion (S$4.3 billion) investment programme into new technology and grow The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, adding that the manufacturer will continue to expand at Malmesbury, Hullavington, Singapore and other global locations. Malmesbury, in Wiltshire, England, is where Dyson’s head office is, while Hullavington, which is about 8km away, is where its second UK technology campus sits.

“In summary, our investment appetite is undiminished and we will continue to deepen our roots in both the UK and Singapore,” Mr Dyson said.

Mr Tan Kong Hwee, EDB’s assistant managing director, said: “We understand that Dyson has chosen to focus on growing its core home business, including new product categories, and on the development of its battery technology.

“Singapore will play an important role in Dyson’s growth plans. This will lead to the creation of exciting job opportunities in its HQ, R&D and manufacturing teams, and the development of capabilities in sensor technology, vision systems, robotics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.”

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