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Automobiles

Foxconn aims for 10% of electric car platform market by 2025

Taiwanese iPhone assembler sees EVs as next key source of growth

Foxconn Technology Group chairman Young Liu speaks in Taipei on Oct. 16. (Photo by Cheng Ting-Fang)

TAIPEI -- Key Apple supplier Foxconn Technology Group is aiming to control up to 10% of the global market for electric vehicle platforms by 2025 as it seeks new growth drivers to offset the long slowdown in the smartphone industry.

Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, unveiled its first open platform for electric vehicle hardware and software on Friday. Dubbed MIH, the platform is designed to cut the amount of time and resources needed to develop and produce electric cars.

"Metaphorically speaking, our open platform is like [Google's] AndroidOS. The introduction of the open platforms will enable carmakers to greatly shorten the development process and accelerate the product lead time," Foxconn Chairman Young Liu said at the inaugural Foxconn Technology Day in Taipei. "The first EV adopting Foxconn's open platform will be available in the market in two years at the earliest."

"By 2025 to 2027, Foxconn's new open platform can secure at least 10% of the global EV market," he said, meaning "at least some 3 million electric cars will be powered by the new platform."

The automobile industry is facing a huge disruption as electronics and integrated technology play a more significant role, and traditional carmakers will find they cannot do everything themselves, Liu said. "It's very similar to decades ago when PC makers found they could not develop and manufacture all the devices in-house if they want to save time and speed up developments."

Foxconn unveiled its first open platform for EV hardware and software on Oct. 16. (Photo by Lauly Li)

Founded in 1974, Foxconn, the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer is mostly known for as a key assembler of iPhones and other electronics goods, including HP notebooks and printers, Amazon and Google devices and Cisco.

But while much less is known about its EV efforts, the company actually began tapping into the automobile supply chain as early as 2007 and has been supplying key components and thermal solutions for carmakers like Tesla and BMW for years.

Liu, who took over as chairman from Foxconn founder Terry Gou in June 2019, has been pushing to transform the company by identifying new, long-term growth drivers. His targets include electric vehicles, semiconductors, servers and key components. Sales of its automobile-related businesses reached around 10 billion New Taiwan dollar ($347 million) of the company's NT$5.33 trillion revenue last year, according to the company's data.

The unveiling of Foxconn's EV open platform comes after the company in January announced a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to develop electric vehicles together. Under the arrangement, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant will provide electronics know-how while leaving the actual carmaking to the European automaker. Foxconn in August also formed a joint-venture with Yulon Group, Taiwan's second biggest automaker after Hotai Motor, to develop electric cars. The nearly 70-year-old Yulon not only manufactures Nissan and Mitsubishi cars for Taiwan, but also it has its own brand, Luxgen.

Foxconn's MIH open platform will enable carmakers to develop Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and remote key functions, and will be compatible with Alexa Auto, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Leveraging the MIH platform, automobile manufacturers will be able to develop EVs for different classes of car, including sedans and SUVs.

Foxconn will also focus more on developing critical components for EVs, including introducing a solid-state battery for commercial use by 2024, said Jerry Hsiao, Foxconn's chief product officer. Solid-state batteries promise increased efficiency and lower costs than EVs running on liquid-state batteries. Other tech and auto giants, like Samsung Electronics, Toyota Motor and China's Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., or CATL, are also developing solid-state battery technologies.

Hsiao said that over the years, Foxconn has built up a large number of patents on batteries, thermal solutions, materials such as carbon-coated silicon -- which is vital for developing next-generation batteries -- and automotive electronics solutions for use in autonomous driving. A Japanese airport already uses Foxconn technology for its autonomous shuttle bus, he added.

Foxconn is the most important assembler for the first-ever 5G iPhone range, but the company still sees an urgent need to expand business beyond Apple, its largest customer, which accounted for nearly 50% of its revenue. The global smartphone industry is estimated to decline for the fourth straight year in 2020. Foxconn's revenue was down 7% on the year in the first nine months of 2020, at NT$3.34 trillion, as the global pandemic disrupted manufacturing and the iPhone faced production delays.

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