Byton could help revive brand that built Chairman Mao’s limo

Jay Leno drives a Chinese-made Hongqi

A historic Chinese brand could come back to life with help from Byton, the electric-car start-up based in the country. China’s state-owned FAW Group said it’s working with Byton to help revive the Hongqi, or Red Flag, brand.

Red Flag famously produced the CA770, none other than the limousine for Chairman Mao Zedong 60 years ago. FAW Group’s new chairman, Xu Liuping, told in a Thursday report that he wants to increase Red Flag sales 100 fold by 2025 to sell 300,000 vehicles per year. Working with Byton to revive the iconic model may help produce Xu’s desired result.

Byton made a splash at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show when it revealed its concept SUV with a proposed $45,000 price and vast amounts of connectivity. The model is all-electric with a 201-horsepower motor at the front axle and a 268-hp motor at the rear. Two battery packs will be offered: a 71-kwh lithium-ion battery for the entry-level model and a 95-kwh battery as an option. The former should provide about 200 miles of range, while the larger battery could muster 310 miles, per Byton.

Byton concept, 2018 Consumer Electronics Show

Byton co-founder Daniel Kirchert said the company has an advantage in the electrification field, and combined with FAW’s resources, he’s confident the Red Flag brand will see a resurgence. Kirchert also said the two companies are discussing plans to cooperate in product development, manufacturing, supply-chain management and sales, according to the report.

While Byton and FAW work on the tie-up, the company hopes to begin sales of its electric SUV in 2019 for the Chinese market. Then, Byton plans to take on Europe and the United States in 2020, if all goes according to plan.

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