Swedish startup Uniti aims to introduce a revolution in the automotive industry with its three-seat electric car, the One EV. However, the company has a different business model than most carmakers or automotive startups.
Australian-born Lewis Horne, CEO of Uniti, presents a unique insight into the startup’s plans and how it is going down a different path towards shaking up the market. Uniti doesn’t plan to sell its EVs directly to individual customers. Rather, the business model is aimed at selling the car to companies as a mobility service for its employees.
If Uniti manages to market it right, the One EV could end up becoming a ubiquitous sight on public roads in the future.
We’re like Apple. Apple does not produce anything – they are a software, design and branding company – and that’s the same operational model that we have. There are plenty of people who are great at manufacturing and we won’t try to be best at that,” says Lewis Horne, CEO, Uniti.
Lewis Horne is not an automobile enthusiast. He views cars as more of a commodity than a personal means of transport. In his own words: “I’m somebody who doesn’t like cars very much! But I do like really beautiful, clean, simple consumer electronics – like a MacBook. I think: why can’t we have that in a car?”
Uniti counts B2C (Business to Consumer) revenue as only a small part of its projected revenue. The firm’s model is based on recurring revenue, not traditional sales. Uniti compares itself with Apple in that the latter does not produce anything – Apple is a software, design, and branding company.
The company is starting off by building EVs at its plant in Norwich, England, eventually moving into higher volumes. However, production will be shifted from Norwich once Uniti is ready to make more cars. Here the question arises: why UK in the first place if production will shift away ultimately?
Horne answers, “The fundamental engineering criteria was to build a safe car that is lightweight and the UK engineers are the best in the world at that. A bunch of them are in Silverstone. A bunch happen to be in Norwich. I won’t comment on any specifics of who our engineering partners are, however.”
In keeping with Uniti CEO Lewis Horne's image of a car as a commodity, the One EV sports a utilitarian, yet quality interior.
As for when the Uniti One will hit public roads, the CEO is confident that it can put these EVs on the roads before mid-2020. The only factor stopping Uniti from starting sales right now is the process of homologation. The Swedish startup is homologating the One EV as a car, and not a quadricycle. That involves equipping the car with safety systems like airbags, electronic safety programmes.
Lastly, on the question of how a low-volume EV that costs roughly $20,000 will be profitable, Horne says, “It’s not a low-volume product but we don’t depend on high-volume B2C sales. The first vehicles we don’t make any money with simply because we spare no expense with the details, the materials, components and so forth. I would be extremely happy if the first few hundred customers were blown away by the quality of the product, the quality of the service: that helps with the bigger picture.”