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Delayed salaries for Byton workers add to woes for coronavirus-embattled EV maker

The company is struggling to stay afloat amid the impact of the epidemic.

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker Byton has experienced a series of setbacks due to the coronavirus outbreak, including furloughs of over 200 US employees, slowing progress in fundraising, and now delayed salaries, local media 36Kr reported on Wednesday.

Some China employees of the Nanjing-based EV startup have yet to receive their salaries for March, despite an earlier promise of the company to pay 50% of wages, 36Kr reported, citing people familiar with the matter. One Byton employee told 36Kr that while the employees are working normally every day, they have not heard from the company yet about when they can receive the salaries for March.

In a response to 36Kr, Byton said the delay was due to “some communication issues,” and that the payments for March are “still processing”. The company also said that members of the core management team will slash 80% of their salaries and contribute to Byton’s ongoing Series C fundraising.

Byton said it will delay payment in different amounts from April to July to its employees in China based on their positions, and the delayed proportion will be paid later when the company recovered from the impact of the epidemic, according to local media outlet TMT Post.

Byton has also experienced hurdles in its US office. The EV maker has put the employees from its Santa Clara facility on furlough as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, affecting about half of the 450-strong staff, according to a report by Electrek. The company said it is “targeting the end of May for return to full employment.”

In addition to these difficulties, Byton is seeing slow progress in its Series C fundraising round, which was originally scheduled to close by the end of June 2019 but is still not yet completed. A Byton spokesperson told 36Kr that, while not so much confirmed information related to financing is disclosed, the company has recently been “in touch with several prospected investors for due diligence.”

Byton previously revealed that the Series C funding targets to raise USD 500 million from investors including China’s oldest automaker FAW, governmental funds affiliated with Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, and South Korean auto parts supplier Myoung Shin. It also announced that Marubeni Corporation, one of the top five Japanese trading companies, has been added to the Series C round investor roster.

The EV maker’s first model, the Byton M-Byte, is expected to enter mass production in mid-2020, and will be first launched in China and later delivered in Europe and North America by 2021, said the company. The M-Byte features a 48-inch screen that spans the whole dashboard, offering content such as weather updates, a GPS, and video, among others.

36Kr is KrASIA’s parent company.