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Former VW chief reveals ambitious auto startup

By LI FUSHENG | China Daily | Updated: 2022-11-07 10:23
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Weiming Soh, founder and chairman of BeyonCa. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Weiming Soh must be a maverick in the eyes of fellow electric vehicle startup founders. Unlike most of them, the former senior executive at Volkswagen is not threatening to overthrow established giants or even disrupt the auto industry.

The goal of BeyonCa, which he has founded, is to sell 100,000 vehicles a year after three to five years of work, said Soh in an interview after he revealed the brand last week in Beijing.

"We didn't even think about selling 1 million, 2 million vehicles a year. It will be immature. We don't have the ability to do that," he said soberly.

But he is ambitious in the meantime. He said BeyonCa aspires to become the first premium brand outside of Europe. He is quick to add that its vehicles will not be overpriced, or flashy ones to take on Porsche or Bentley.

Despite his new role as a startup founder, Soh insisted that established car giants will not necessarily lose the race in the fast-evolving smart EV sector.

"They have their challenges but they have their solid basis. They will not lag behind for good. They will only be several years later than us, and that is the opportunity," said Soh, who has been in the auto industry since 1995.

His long experience has made him insightful about the sector. He did not expect the curve of premium EV sales to rise sharply until 2025 or so, although EVs are to account for more than 20 percent of total car deliveries in China this year.

BeyonCa is to unveil its first production model in spring 2023. It will then hit the Chinese market in 2024, just as projected demand for premium smart EVs starts to rise rapidly in Asia and globally.

Soh said the logic of cars in the burgeoning smart EV sector is different from what it has been since modern vehicles were invented in Europe.

"It is not about entry-level cars, premium cars. You need to have your target customers, like who are they at all," said Soh.

He cited the example of startup Li Auto, whose models are designed for men with children in mind.

BeyonCa's focus is health, among other things. The startup said its AI-based smart cockpit will monitor the user's health in real time. It also has the world's first in-cabin cloud doctor service, so it can look out for the well-being of the driver and passengers, protecting them from consequences that may result from abnormal health conditions.

"We believe deep scenario-driven car making is BeyonCa's unique path. This path captures the art of car making and the technologies to transform cars and services into a synergistic whole," Soh said.

"As for case scenarios, this means using the most intelligent methods to serve the varying needs of our users while providing them with an integrated super-premium user experience," he added.

The company has three R&D offices in China, a design center in Munich and a Singapore office which will become a R&D hub. BeyonCa is in talks with several Chinese cities about where to build its first plant.

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