SINGAPORE: A lack of commercial feasibility, rather than a lack of capabilities in Singapore, contributed to Dyson’s decision to scrap its automotive division and project to build electric vehicles here, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat on Tuesday (Nov 5).
Mr Chee was responding to Member of Parliament (MP) Liang Eng Hwa, who had asked if there was "any lack of specific capabilities or advantages" on Singapore’s part that may have contributed to the U-turn in the British firm’s plans for an electric car plant here.
“Is it due to a lack of capabilities? No,” said Mr Chee.
“This is a business they were thinking of going into and later 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 said in October that although its team had developed a "fantastic" electric car, it was not commercially viable.
"Though we have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply can no longer see a way to make it commercially viable," said Mr Dyson in an e-mail to employees in October.
"We have been through a serious process to find a buyer for the project which has, unfortunately, been unsuccessful so far," he added.
Mr Chee noted on Tuesday that Singapore continues to be valued for its highly-skilled workforce, strengths in advanced technologies such as robotics and automation, a strong intellectual property protection regime which allows for research and development (R&D), as well as its strong tripartite partnership.
“This ecosystem is what we are trying to grow whether it is for manufacturing of electric vehicles, high-end equipment for precision manufacturing, and bio- and med-tech – things which require high skill and can produce high value,” he said in Parliament.
Other companies have expressed interest in developing smart mobility solutions in Singapore, added Mr Chee without going into details.
“We will continue to work with these companies to harness new opportunities for Singapore, our companies and our workers,” he said.
INCENTIVES NOT GIVEN
As for Dyson, the company’s decision to shift gears on its electric vehicle business means that incentives will “therefore not be given for this 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,” said Mr Chee in response to a question from MP Seah Kian Peng on whether Dyson will be honouring its other investment commitments.
“For other projects that Dyson has already started or are planning to expand some of their activities in Singapore, that is something that we will look at separately,” he added.
Mr Chee said the shutting down of the electric vehicle business will not impact Dyson’s presence and operations in Singapore.
"Although Dyson will no longer pursue its electric vehicle business, it will continue to grow its core business in Singapore, develop battery technology for consumer products and expand R&D in areas such as sensors and robotics and artificial intelligence, which will also support the development of a smart mobility ecosystem," he added.
The 20 employees from its shuttered electric vehicle unit will also be redeployed within the organisation, Mr Chee said.
Dyson employs about 1,200 people here. Earlier this year, it said it would move its corporate head office to Singapore to "reflect the increasing importance of Asia" to its business.