Dyson's scrapping of electric car plant not due to lack of capabilities in Singapore: Chee Hong Tat

Dyson’s advanced automotive manufacturing facility in Singapore that was scrapped. (ILLUSTRATION: Dyson)

SINGAPORE — Dyson’s decision to scrap its automotive division along with plans for an electric car plant here were not due to Singapore’s lack of capabilities, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat in Parliament on Tuesday (5 November).

Rather it was the lack of commercial viability that led to the move, said Chee in response to a question raised by Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Liang Eng Hwa’s on the British company’s abrupt U-turn on its electric car plans.

“Is it due to a lack of capabilities? No,” said Chee. “This is a business they were thinking of going into and later they decided that it would not be viable commercially for the company to continue, so they have stopped their plans to go into this area.”

Dyson made the announcement about its change of plans early last month. Up until then, however, there was little indication that it was having second thoughts about the high-profile £2.5 billion (S$4.37 billion) project.

In a statement, Dyson’s founder and chief executive James Dyson said that his team had developed a "fantastic car" based on an "ingenious" approach but regretted that it could not be made 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.

No impact on Dyson’s Singapore presence

In response to Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng’s question on whether Dyson would be honouring its earlier investment commitments, Chee stressed that incentives were not given for the company’s electric car project.

“I want to be clear that because the project has not taken place and the investments have not been made, the incentives have not been given,” he said, adding that other projects that the company has started or are planning to expand in Singapore would be something that would be looked at separately.

Chee again stressed that Dyson’s U-turn will not impact its presence and operations in Singapore.

“Out of Dyson’s 1,200-strong workforce in Singapore, 20 employees are from their electric vehicle business. Dyson will redeploy the affected employees within the organisation,” he said.

“Although Dyson will no longer pursue its electric vehicle business, it will continue to grow its core business in Singapore, including developing battery technology for consumer products, expanding R&D in areas such as sensors, robotics, and artificial intelligence, which will also support the development of a smart mobility ecosystem.”

Other companies have also expressed interest in developing smart mobility solutions in Singapore, said Chee, adding that they value Singapore’s highly-skilled workforce, strengths in advanced technologies such as robotics and automation, strong intellectual property protection regime and tripartite partnership.

“We will continue to work with these companies to harness these opportunities for Singapore,” he added.

“This ecosystem is what we are trying to grow; whether it is for manufacturing of electric vehicles, high-end equipment for precision manufacturing, for bio- and med-tech equipment... things which Singapore, with our trusted brand-name and skilled workforce, we are well equipped to play in,” said Chee.

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