Apple’s iPhone partner Foxconn unveils first electric vehicles

Debby Wu

Foxconn Technology Group unveiled its first electric vehicles, a milestone that could boost the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer’s credentials as a serious bidder for Apple Inc.’s secretive automotive project.

The SUV and sedan models introduced on Monday are concept vehicles that the manufacturer plans to build for automotive customers rather than sell under its own brand. Executives including Young Liu, chairman of Foxconn’s flagship unit Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., unveiled the vehicles at the company’s Technology Day event in Taipei.

In this image from video, workers wipe the Foxtron Model C electric car after it unveiled in a press event held in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, Oct. 18, 2021.

Foxconn is the largest assembler of iPhones, giving it an edge as a potential carmaker partner for Apple as the U.S. company weighs expanding into vehicles. As part of its aggressive push into cars, Foxconn agreed in late September to spend $280 million on the purchase of an auto plant in northeast Ohio from embattled startup Lordstown Motors Corp.

“We are no longer the new kid in town,” Liu said. “We have gradually built an EV supply chain and showcased our EV hardware.”

Foxconn founder Terry Gou embraces Hon Hai chairman Young Liu next to the Foxtron concept sedan in Taipei.

Taiwan’s Yulon Motor Co. will be Foxconn’s first electric-car customer, Lilian Chen, Yulon’s chairwoman, said at the Taipei event. Yulon’s electric sedan built by Foxconn is set to retail for less than $35,700, Liu said. Foxconn also displayed its electric bus, which will be delivered to a local transportation provider next year.

In this image from video, people look at the Foxtron Model C electric car during a press event held in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, Oct. 18, 2021.

Shares of Hon Hai declined 1.8% in Taipei, and Yulon lost 4.8%.

Foxconn is among the technology companies targeting EVs as a source of growth beyond low-margin electronics assembly. The Ohio deal is a boon for Foxconn, giving it assembly capacity, equipment and talent, Citigroup analyst Carrie Liu wrote in a recent note. The company is close to deciding the location for a car plant in Europe, Liu said.

One of the electric cars unveiled by Foxconn is seen during a press event held in Taipei, Taiwan Monday, Oct. 18, 2021.

The Apple car would be the ultimate prize for every aspiring EV manufacturer. Working in Foxconn’s favor is its strong relationship with the U.S. consumer-electronics giant. The years-long partnership has expanded as Apple has added product categories, and the company now accounts for about 50% of Foxconn’s annual sales.

Any Apple automobile is still years away and the company has suffered setbacks including the recent departure of the head of its car project to Ford Motor Co. An Apple car has for years been somewhat of a paradox — it’s one of its most hotly anticipated products yet the company has publicly said almost nothing about it.

One of the electric cars unveiled by Foxconn is seen during a press event held in Taipei, Taiwan Monday, Oct. 18, 2021.

Foxconn has yet to start sales of any vehicle following the debut of its EV platform last year. It plans to start mass production of Lordstown’s Endurance electric pickup in Ohio in April, according to a person familiar with its schedule.

In comparison, carmakers such as Ford, General Motors, Tesla Inc., Volkswagen AG and Hyundai Motor Co. are already churning out EV models and spending billions of dollars on product development and capacity.

Still, Foxconn has made some progress. It has a manufacturing deal with Fisker Inc. and a partnership with Thailand’s state-owned conglomerate PTT Pcl. It’s also struck pacts with Stellantis NV and Zhejiang Geely Holding.