UK giant Dyson joins global race to make electric cars in Singapore

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Sir James Dyson (left) shows Minister for Communications and Information & Minister in charge of Cyber Security S. Iswaran the Dyson 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner. (Photo YT screenshot)

THIS is electrifying news for Singapore: Leading British technology firm Dyson will set up corporate head office in Singapore to “reflect the increasing importance of Asia” to its business.

The company, which broke through the £1 billion (US$1.3 billion) barrier for annual profit in 2018, made it clear that the move from Britain was not driven by Brexit or any tax implications. It already manufacturers products in Asia and will build its new electric car in Singapore.

“We have been talking about our pivot to Asia for some time,” Chief Executive Officer Jim Rowan said in a statement. “Asia represents (Dyson’s) largest and fastest growing market of the world. Asian consumers are hungry for the most advanced technology and it is the largest electric vehicle market in the world so this trend only will quicken.”

But analysts say the move is likely to be seen as a major blow to Britain as it prepares to leave the European Union. Some of the biggest companies in the country, including leading global carmakers, have warned that a disorderly exit will snarl supply chains and force them to move jobs and facilities out of Britain

In the statement, the privately owned company known for its bladeless fans and bagless vacuum cleaners said: “An increasing majority of Dyson’s customers and all of our manufacturing operations are now in Asia; this shift has been occurring for some time and will quicken as Dyson brings its electric vehicles to market.

RIGHT DYSON DECISIONS

“As a result, an increasing proportion of Dyson’s executive team is going to be based in Singapore; positioning them to make the right decisions for Dyson in a quick and efficient way.”

“Singapore has a comparatively high cost base, but also great technology expertise and focus,” Rowan added. “It is therefore the right place to make high quality technology loaded machines, and the right place to make our electric vehicle.”

Founder Sir James Dyson announced last year that the company was joining the global race to electric vehicles was that pits the biggest established names in autos against specialists such as Tesla (TSLA).

Dyson also announced investment plans, including the expansion of the Singapore Technology Centre to double its current size, as well as the Malaysia Design Centre’s fifth phase of development.

It reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of £1.1 billion (US$1.42 billion) in 2018 on turnover up 28 per cent to £4.4 billion.

According to The Guardian newspaper, Sir Dyson, the 71-year-old billionaire who owns 100 per cent of the company he founded in the 1970s, will “continue to divide his time between Singapore and the UK as the business requires it”.

A prototype Dyson electric vehicle is in the works for 2020, followed by a product launch in 2021. With 5,853 engineers and scientists working on its new electric car and other products, the company added that it was still expanding its research and engineering operation in Britain.

There will be construction of new laboratories in the United Kingdom, to cater for the growth of Dyson’s energy storage research and robotics programme. Malmesbury, the location of its original headquarters, as well as Hullavington, London and Bristol, will “continue to be core creative and engineering parts of Dyson”, it added.

QUESTION OF BREXIT

Sir Dyson came out in favour of Brexit days before the 2016 vote when he said Britain could be about £18.5 billion better off each year if it left the European Union. But with only weeks before Brexit, other manufacturers are warning of huge damage if no divorce deal is struck.

Chief executive Rowan said the group was seeing the biggest demand for its products like air purifiers and hairdryers as well as cleaners in Asia. He did not foresee see any issues relating to the movement of goods for Dyson.

“If your supply chain is in Asia, and you are manufacturing in the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia, then obviously you don’t get badly affected with those changes post-Brexit,” he said.

“Our growth rate in Asia has doubled most other places in the world over recent years,” he said, adding that more than half of its profit came from the region and the move was aimed at “future proofing” Dyson.

“It allows us to make sure we will be putting our best efforts to secure those opportunities, as well as keeping an eye on those investments, especially EV (electric vehicles) and batteries,” he said.