At 70, James Dyson Embarks on Audacious Electric Car Project

(p. B5) James Dyson, best known for innovative vacuum cleaners, said recently that he was preparing to introduce a new electric car and had 400 people working on the project.

. . .

But breaking into the car business is far more complex than it might appear at first glance. A new carmaker must design the vehicle and figure out how to manufacture it — and that is only the beginning. Success requires a number of to-dos: effective marketing, a dealer network and, perhaps, arranging buyer financing.

“There is a huge list,” said Peter Wells, a professor at Cardiff Business School in Wales. “That has been one of the reasons why the barriers to entry in the automotive industry have been relatively high.”

Still, Mr. Wells said that the car industry is “at a very important pivot point in its history now, where a combination of factors are radically altering what is possible.” And Mr. Dyson, 70, . . . , could be in a position to take advantage.

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Mr. Dyson has proved himself a dogged inventor, designing high-end vacuum cleaners and other products like hair dryers. His technological savvy gives him a chance of scoring a hit in the much more complex and costly global car industry, analysts said. In 2015, he bought Sakti3, an American start-up that is working with solid state batteries. Mr. Dyson said he could be on track to commercializing a so-called solid state battery, which analysts say might be more powerful and safer than the lithium ion devices now used in electric cars and cellphones. He said both the start-up and his own team were working on the project.

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As nascent as they are, the plans Mr. Dyson has laid out will be expensive, particularly for a medium-size company like Dyson. Mr. Dyson said he would spend £1 billion on the car and another £1 billion on the battery — a lot of money for a company that reported £2.5 billion in revenue last year.

He may need to spend more. Tesla, for instance, has already spent about $6 billion, according to analysts’ estimates.

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Electric cars are clearly a high-risk venture. Mr. Houchois said none of the vehicles on the market, including those made by Tesla, which recently reported disappointing production numbers on its new Model 3, are making money for their owners. Dyson may seek to bring costs down by manufacturing in Asia, where it already makes appliances.

Still, whatever his reputation, Mr. Dyson has set himself a formidable task. “It is one thing to design and manufacture a household item,” said R. A. Farrokhnia, a professor at the business and engineering schools at Columbia University. “And quite another to prototype and then build a complex electric vehicle.”

For the full story, see:

Stanley Reed and Amie Tsang. “Britons Thinking Big: An Electric Car and a Rugged Throwback.” The New York Times (Friday, Oct. 13, 2017): B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 12, 2017, and has the title “An Electric Car and a Rugged Throwback: The Dreams of 2 Rich Britons.”)

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