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Foxconn EV venture targets India and Thailand

MIH chief executive Jack Cheng poses for a photo at the Foxconn's EV development platform MIH demo day in Taipei, Taiwan, on November 8, 2022

Foxconn’s venture attempting to build a standardised electric vehicle (EV) platform is targeting India or Thailand for the production of a small battery-powered car under development, the unit’s chief executive said.

The Taiwanese company’s EV platform unit Mobility in Harmony (MIH) would be willing to work with its parent or another company to build the new three-seat EV priced below $20,000 and tailor-made for a corporate delivery fleet, MIH CEO Jack Cheng told Reuters in an interview.

MIH has been in talks with convenience stores, car rental companies and courier companies ahead of unveiling its first prototype EV at Japan’s largest auto trade show in October, Cheng added.

He declined to name the companies in talks with MIH, but said the car would be priced between $10,000 and $20,000. India and Thailand are likely contenders for production sites, he said, adding that he expected India to be crucial to MIH’s longer-term growth.

“You build where the potential market is. In India or Southeast Asia, you have a huge volume opportunity right now,” Cheng said, calling India a potential “emerging power for the next generation” in the EV sector.

MIH had not previously described its manufacturing strategy or the potential customers for its new vehicle.

Since 2021, Foxconn has had a joint venture with Thailand’s state-energy company PTT centred on EVs, an area of focus for the Southeast Asian country’s government.

For its part, Foxconn has so far failed to land the kind of deal that would show the EV market can be opened to the type of contract manufacturing that Foxconn came to dominate in consumer electronics for Apple’s iPhone.

Foxconn established the MIH consortium of some 2,600 suppliers two years ago with the aim of creating an open platform that could become the equivalent of Google’s Android operating system for EVs.

Cheng conceded MIH had “not seen success yet” but said returns for participating suppliers would come with orders for a range of new EVs called Project X. The idea is to use low-cost, shared platforms to allow corporate fleet operators to order custom-made EVs.

So far, that model is largely untested, and analysts have said the best opportunity for a new EV entrant like Foxconn could close in the next few years as established automakers and startups ramp up their own production.

MIH plans to start production of the three-seat EV about 18 to 24 months after the prototype is unveiled in October, Cheng said. A six-seat EV is scheduled to follow in 2024 and a nine-seat model in 2025.

Based on its timeline, it would take MIH four years or more from its founding to first sales in a best case scenario.

But Cheng, who was a co-founder of Chinese EV maker NIO and headed Fiat’s joint venture in China before joining Foxconn, said Tesla’s success with its large Shanghai plant showed how quickly an EV maker could scale up.

“I’m building another Shanghai, probably in India,” Cheng said. “If this is a Foxconn plant, fantastic, it’s the mother company, we put it into the Foxconn plant. If this is a local India plant and it’s even more competitive, give it to the India plant.”

Foxconn, which only produces a small number of EVs at present, has set an initial target of gaining a five percent share of the global market by 2025. MIH’s sales will count towards Foxconn’s target, Cheng said.