British inventor James Dyson has dropped out of the race to produce electric cars in the face of stiff competition and after criticism of the Brexit-backing billionaire’s decision to build the vehicle in Singapore.
Dyson, famed for his bagless vacuum cleaners, announced two years ago that he was developing an electric car as part of a £2.5 billion ($3.1 billion) investment drive in future technology, with the first vehicles expected in 2021.
The ambitious project catapulted the 72-year-old entrepreneur into competition against more established players such as US firm Tesla, founded by business magnate Elon Musk, and carmakers from the US to China.
Adding to his difficulties, the plan ran into controversy when the company revealed that its first car plant would be in Singapore and its global headquarters were shifting to the affluent city-state.
Dyson insisted it was to be closer to booming Asian markets — but there was fury that the tycoon was not investing more in UK manufacturing after vocally supporting Britain’s exit from the European Union.
There had however been little indication that Dyson was having second thoughts about the high-profile project, which hundreds of employees were already working on, until an announcement late Thursday of the abrupt U-turn.
Dyson said in a statement that his team had developed a “fantastic car” based on an “ingenious” approach but added: “Though we have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply cannot make it commercially viable.”
“We have been through a serious process to find a buyer for the project which has, unfortunately, been unsuccessful so far,” he said.
There are 523 people in the automotive team, the majority in Britain and 22 in Singapore, a spokesman said. Dyson said “as many of the team as possible” would be reassigned to other roles in the company.
Singapore government agency the Economic Development Board predicted the decision to ditch the project would have a minimal disruption on Dyson’s operations in the Asian trading hub, as it was at an early stage.
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