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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

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This Chinese EV startup wants to save you from a heart attack

A new Chinese electric vehicle startup touts its ability to monitor drivers’ health for serious incidents such as a heart attack to stand out in an increasingly crowded market.

A new Chinese electric vehicle startup touts its ability to monitor drivers’ health for serious incidents such as a heart attack to stand out in an increasingly crowded market.

BeyonCa, led by Soh Weiming, head of Renault SA, is set to unveil its first production car in the first quarter of next year, with deliveries to start in 2024. The GT Opus 1 price will compete with BMW AG’s 7 Series and Porsche AG’s Taycan series, China’s best-selling super-premium EV – which starts at 898,000 yuan ($123,000) and goes up to 1.8 million yuan.

The car will be equipped with sensors and cameras that can monitor the driver’s vital signs. If abnormal symptoms are detected, an artificial intelligence assistant steps in to talk to the driver. If there is no response, the autonomous driving system takes over and brings the vehicle to safety. Virtual doctors can check in with the patient via the screen of the smart cockpit.

“If we can save one life, that’s enough,” Soh said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “We don’t make an ambulance here. We are making a premium car that includes smart AI to help people.”

After more than 15 years at VW China, Soh joined Renault last year, splitting his time between running the European carmaker’s local unit and building his new venture – one in which Renault also has a strategic investor, in addition to Dongfeng Motor Group Co.

The startup has gathered a raft of investors, including a pledge of more than $1 billion from Changjiang Capital, according to 36 kr, making it one of the largest venture capital deals in the country this year. Soh said the startup is still working on the details of the deal.

Awash with money, BeyonCa wants to build “sporty, sexy cars” for China’s super-premium segment, Soh said. The company is aiming for a lineup of three to five models with a production of approximately 100,000 units per year.

China “is probably the largest premium market in the world. Surely. This isn’t even a question. We’re talking millions, not hundreds,” he said. “Super-premium electric vehicles will grow on an S-curve and the S-curve will take off sometime around 2025.”

Still, the hefty sticker price may make the Opus 1 difficult to sell in China, where more budget-friendly cars from BYD Co., among others. leading the way, especially among younger drivers.

“It’s a nice humane concept, but my biggest question is whether it can become a major unique selling point for the car,” said Yale Zhang, director of Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight. “Chinese EV owners are generally under the age of 35. Most around this age think their bodies are great and may not be too concerned about their health.”

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