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Renault stays its hand in China

French parent invests in Hong Kong-based electric vehicle start-up BeyonCa

8 Jul 2024

RENAULT’S seemingly relentless diversification aspirations continue with news emerging of a move from the venerable French manufacturer to help fund and build a new EV brand based in Hong Kong called BeyonCa (Beyond the Car).


BeyonCa’s investors include Chinese state-owned carmaker Dongfeng Motor.


The start-up, established in 2021, was essentially an R&D company focusing on tech’ but is looking to gain a foothold in the electric car space with plans to build Mercedes-Benz and BMW rivalling electric vehicles from a new assembly factory at its global HQ in Hong Kong.


With Renault money, that ambition appears to be moving closer to reality as the company accelerates the development (and manufacturing) of premium BEV cars to sell into an exclusive luxury market and not chase volume as is the case with many automotive manufacturers.


BeyonCa’s first offering, the GT Opus 1, is due at the end of 2025 after having first appeared as a prototype in October 2022. The model features an artificial intelligence-powered smart cockpit with the world’s first in-cabin, real-time monitoring of blood pressure and an online “cloud doctor” service.


It automatically intervenes by slowing down or stopping the car if the driver shows signs of cardiovascular disease, a stroke or fatigue.


It has a striking, sleek appearance in a four-door coupe idiom that looks like a cross between something from Alfa Romeo and Mercedes-Benz with both left-hand drive and right-hand drive models to be assembled at the Hong Kong plant.


The Hong Kong location will allow BeyonCa (and Renault) to tap an extensive automotive supply-chain and rich international talent pool in the Hong Kong Greater Bay Area with plans to set up a production line and four major centres for research and marketing at the state-owned and funded Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks (HKSTP).


BeyonCa’s further ambitions are to set itself up as a “Made in Hong Kong” brand presumably as opposed to “Made in China” while in the process, creating an EV ecosystem that encompasses design, innovation, production, and marketing.


At the moment, Hong Kong-based manufacturers benefit from avoiding punitive measures applied to mainland EV manufacturers.


BeyonCa did not disclose the value of its investment in its new Hong Kong assembly operation which marks the first EV plant in the region.


Aside from the new assembly line, the other three main production processes – stamping, body welding and painting – will be conducted at BeyonCa’s mainland China production bases.


According to various media reports BeyonCa will launch first in China then Europe, the two key markets for premium EVs.


In addition to the Renault deal, BeyonCa signed a preliminary investment deal with Riyadh-based AI Faisaliah Group last October to jointly explore opportunities for EV development in the Middle East according to a report in Automotive News Europe (ANE).


ANE says the Renault Group has largely exited China, where it once sold more than 500,000 vehicles a year but continues to build the Dacia Spring electric minicar with a joint venture partner though its main partnership with Dongfeng, has been dissolved.


In the recent past, Renault Group CEO Luca de Meo said the company plans to “remain involved in the Chinese market in a non-traditional way (with BeyonCa)”, will develop a new low cost Twingo BEV and has recently signed with Geely to further develop and produce ICE.


ANE says the company was started by Weiming Soh, a former Volkswagen China and the current head of Renault’s China operations. Renault said in 2022 that it was investing in BeyonCa as a way to better understand the Chinese technological ecosystem. It has not disclosed the scope of the investment.


“We aim to achieve a breakthrough in Hong Kong's auto manufacturing industry, becoming the first international premier electric vehicle brand made in Hong Kong,” said Mr Soh.

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