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戴森的進與退|《財富》獨家專訪

Jeremy Kahn 2019年10月18日午饭福利视频合集40

這位72歲的英國發明家接受《財富》雜志獨家專訪,透露放棄電動汽車項目背后的故事。

圖片來源:視覺中國?

今年9月中旬的一天,英國發明家、企業家、億萬富翁詹姆斯·戴森站在一個小型舞臺中間,出席公司在巴黎新開旗艦店的盛大開幕式。旗艦店的空間布局更像是高端的藝術畫廊,而不是電器市場:啞光的黑色墻壁和天花板、灰色的瓷磚地板,以及放置在白色底座上像雕塑一樣展示的新潮小電器。

現年72歲的戴森,身材瘦長、精神矍鑠,戴著一副儒雅的藍框眼鏡,穿著一件古銅色的、長及大腿的夾克,讓人聯想到狂熱科學家的實驗服。他操著一口標準的英國口音,正在視察公司的最新產品,包括一款使用循環氣流來避免熱損傷的吹風機、一種利用空氣渦流來包裹卷發的整發器、一臺無葉片的橢圓形空氣凈化器(可以吹熱風和冷風)、組合式水龍頭和干手器等等。這樣的產品不勝枚舉。在產品清單最后,毫無意外都以無繩吸塵器收尾,因為這是消費者最熟悉的戴森產品。

盡管戴森以現有產品的設計和技術令人稱道,但許多參加開幕式的觀眾都希望他能對一款備受關注、但尚未上市的產品談談看法。果然,這位商界巨頭說出了他們渴望聽到的那個詞語:“汽車”。他展示了一張航拍照片,不是一輛汽車,而是位于英國鄉村地區的前英格蘭皇家空軍基地的照片,他的團隊一直在那里秘密設計一款電動汽車。“今晚關于車的話題我就說這么多。”他向觀眾表示。說到做到,他然后開始滔滔不絕地講述他47歲的兒子兼繼承人杰克設計的一款LED燈。

午饭福利视频合集40幾個星期后,戴森對汽車項目三緘其口的原因變得很清楚:他已經認為汽車項目注定要失敗。事實上,當他大張旗鼓地兜售吸塵器和整發器時,他背后的投資銀行家們卻沒能成功地為戴森的電動汽車項目找到買家。戴森已經為電動汽車項目投入了四年時間、數百名工程師和20億英鎊(25億美元)的精力和投入。10月10日,戴森表示,他的私人控股公司將終止這個項目,在第一款電動汽車下線之前,他就結束了自己的電動汽車夢想。

James Dyson, the billionaire British inventor and entrepreneur, is standing on a small stage at the mid-September gala opening of his new flagship retail store in Paris. The space is more high-end art gallery than appliance mart: matte black walls and ceiling, gray tile floors, and stylish gadgets displayed like sculptures, spotlighted on white-topped plinths.

Dyson, spry and lanky at 72 years old, is wearing owlish blue-frame glasses and a copper-toned, thigh-length jacket evocative of a mad scientist’s lab coat. In his cut-glass English accent he’s running through his company’s latest wares: a hair dryer that uses circular airflow to avoid heat damage; a hair styler that wraps curls using a vortex of air; a bladeless oval air purifier that blows hot and cold; a combination water faucet and hand dryer. The list goes on, ending, inevitably, with a cordless vacuum cleaner, the category consumers most closely associate with Dyson’s name.

For all the eye-catching design and technological wonder of Dyson’s body of work, many in the audience are hoping he’ll make a pronouncement about the one much-discussed Dyson product that’s not yet for sale. Then the great man utters the words they’ve longed to hear: “the car.” He flicks to an aerial photograph, not of an automobile, but of the former Royal Air Force base in rural England where his team has been working in great secrecy to design an electric vehicle. “That’s about all I’ll say about the car this evening,” he declares. True to his word, he pivots to rhapsodizing about an LED lamp designed by his 47-year-old son and heir apparent, Jake.

Within weeks, the reason behind Dyson’s reticence becomes clear: He had already decided the car project was doomed. In fact, while he was exuberantly peddling vacuums and hair stylers, his bankers were unsuccessfully scrambling to find a buyer for the electric vehicle program to which Dyson had committed four years, hundreds of engineers, and 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion). On Oct. 10, Dyson said his privately held company would cease work on the project, ending his electric car dreams before the first model ever rolled off the assembly line.

地堡心態:二戰遺址,這個機庫仍留在前空軍基地,戴森在那里完成了電動汽車原型設計,這個項目最終以失敗告終。圖片來源:COURTESY OF DYSON

對于戴森來說,這是一個勇敢的決定,也是一次罕見的公開受挫。戴森及其家人擁有這家以他的名字命名的公司的全部股份。他把自己的聲譽押在了這款汽車上,承諾推出一款“截然不同”的汽車,采用“革命性”的電池技術,同時超越更有經驗的競爭對手。他還承諾在2021年前將其交付給客戶。對于一家新成立的汽車制造商來說,這是一個非常短的時間。最后,懊惱的戴森將退出項目的決定歸結為一個簡單的商業考量,“這款車在商業上根本不可行。”他在接受《財富》雜志獨家采訪時表示。盡管戴森公司的一流汽車團隊成功地制造出了一款創新型新車,但他不愿以低于成本價的定價出售——他認為競爭對手正在這么做。“這真是個悲劇,真的,因為我們的工程師干得很出色。”

午饭福利视频合集40戴森無法生產出可盈利的汽車,充分說明了電動汽車行業目前面臨的危險境地,埃隆·馬斯克的特斯拉和中國的初創企業蔚來汽車等公司每年都在燒錢數十億美元,卻看不到任何盈利的跡象。這個勇敢但最終失敗的項目也充分展示了戴森的個性。戴森是一位與眾不同的高管,能夠將不切實際的夢想與堅定的財務紀律做很好的平衡。在每家公司都在談論創新和顛覆的時候,戴森決定放棄自己的電動汽車。這個典型的案例體現出了一種微妙的平衡行為,即在追求創新的同時必須考慮利潤。

It was a gutsy decision and a rare public setback for Dyson, who, with his family, owns the entirety of the company that bears his name. He had put his estimable reputation on the line with the car, promising a “radically different” vehicle that would feature “revolutionary” battery technology while outperforming more experienced competitors. And he had promised to have it in customers’ hands by 2021, a dramatically short time frame for a neophyte automaker. In the end, a chagrined Dyson says the decision came down to a simple business proposition. “It just wasn’t commercially viable,” he said, in an exclusive interview with Fortune the day after news broke of the car’s demise. Although Dyson’s crack auto team successfully created an innovative new car, he wasn’t willing to price it below cost, as he believes the competition is doing. “It’s a tragedy, really, because our engineers have done a brilliant job.”

午饭福利视频合集40Dyson’s inability to produce a profitable automobile speaks volumes about the current perilous state of the electric vehicle industry, in which companies like Elon Musk’s Tesla and Chinese startup Nio are burning through billions of dollars annually with no sign of black ink on the horizon. The story of his audacious but ultimately failed project also says much about Dyson, the rare executive who can combine blue-sky dreaming with steely-eyed financial discipline. At a time when every company speaks about innovation and disruption, Dyson’s decision to kill his electric car is a case study in the delicate balancing act of embracing ingenuity while keeping an eye on profits.

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盡管看起來有些令人難以置信,但詹姆斯·戴森嘗試制造全電動汽車有充分的理由。電氣化技術發展為汽車行業帶來了百年一遇的機遇,戴森并不是唯一發現這一機遇的人。電動傳動系統僅需要約20個活動部件,而內燃機汽車則需要2,000多個活動部件——從理論上講,這降低了準入門檻。更重要的是,特斯拉已經喚醒了“沉睡”中的全球電動汽車行業。幾年前,電動汽車行業看起來似乎還有很大的空間有待更多的進入者填補。例如,有傳聞稱蘋果和谷歌也在研發汽車。“任何人都可以制造電動汽車。”資深汽車分析師瑪麗安·凱勒說。“這是一個開放的市場。”

戴森認為他比大多數人有更好的成功概率。他的公司蒸蒸日上,2018年的銷售額上升25%,達到創紀錄的56億美元。作為彰顯身份的消費品牌,在亞洲市場強勁需求的推動下,戴森公司的稅前營業利潤首次突破10億美元。通過生產真空吸塵器,戴森公司已經成為全球電動馬達的領導者。通過深耕無繩產品,戴森公司對電池也有很深的了解。氣流和溫濕度控制等關鍵電動汽車技術也出現在戴森的現有電器產品中。戴森表示:“當我們幾乎是偶然地意識到,我們擁有制造電動汽車的技術時,很自然地就會考慮開發電動汽車。”早在2015年,當他第一次構思電動汽車時,戴森就表示,市場上似乎有足夠的空間讓他重新思考電動汽車的模樣。他表示:“你必須記住,四五年前,只有特斯拉存在。所以那是一個非常不同的環境。”

午饭福利视频合集40這位發明家的職業生涯就是不斷證明質疑者的錯誤。從1974年發明的獨輪車開始,他成功地重塑了一個又一個普通的家用產品。他通過無袋吸塵器成名并獲得大量財富,這種吸塵器利用“旋風”效應從空氣中除塵。1993年他推出真空吸塵器,其特點是裝有一個透明的垃圾箱,可以讓用戶看到你到底吸了多少灰塵(值得一提的是,他拒絕了營銷專家的建議,后者曾經告訴他,沒有人會買一個展示灰塵的真空吸塵器)。新型產品還包括了一些改進,比如對球形把手的改進,以便在狹窄的角落里移動機器。公司通過電動機研究讓細長的無繩直立裝置得以實現。戴森還善于將自己的專業知識擴展到新的領域,比如Airblade干手器、無葉片風扇和空氣凈化器。

盡管汽車產品對戴森公司看起來像是一種跨界,但戴森多年來一直致力于設計一款汽車,部分原因是他渴望發明一種針對內燃機排放污染的解決方案。針對柴油發動機的氣味和煙霧,他在20世紀80年代末和90年代初基于無袋真空吸塵器技術開發了一種過濾器,用于過濾卡車排放中的顆粒物。但是貨運公司拒絕購買,戴森認為原因是他們不想清洗過濾器。他還指責英國和歐洲的監管機構,盡管有大量科學證據證明柴油對健康有害,但他們堅持認為柴油“綠色環保”。戴森表示:“有一種被拋棄的感覺。”他承認自那以后對新技術的探索“一直處于蟄伏狀態”。出于某些不確定的原因,他啟動了一些大型項目。

詹姆斯·戴森

這位72歲的英國發明家在他成年后一直在創新。他的新發明從園藝行業到發型設計。

發明家

戴森的第一個成功之作出現在1974年,那是一輛經過重新設計的獨輪車,用塑料球代替了狹窄的橡膠輪,塑料球可以防止獨輪車陷入泥濘的地面。他稱之為“球輪手推車”。

然后戴森將注意力轉向無袋吸塵器。他花了10年時間來完善他的產品設計,先后做出了5,127個原型機,最終成就了他的名聲和財富。

環保主義者

午饭福利视频合集40幾十年來,戴森一直對污染問題感到擔憂,但并非出于對全球變暖的擔憂。他討厭歐洲流行的柴油發動機排放到空氣中的廢氣。“我討厭那種味道,”他說。“我討厭黑煙。”

午饭福利视频合集40他開發了一種過濾器來過濾柴油發動機的顆粒物,但無法說服卡車運輸公司購買。他從來不喜歡使用化石燃料的發動機。

土地所有者、慈善家、愛國者

午饭福利视频合集40除了日常工作,戴森還經營著一家盈利的農業企業。他擁有的農田比英國其他任何人都多,包括英國女王伊麗莎白二世。

他的詹姆斯戴森基金會(James Dyson Foundation)在27個國家開展年度獎勵計劃,評選最具創新性的發明。為了培養更多的英國工程師,他創辦了詹姆斯戴森學院(James Dyson Institute),為本科生提供免費的工程學位教育和工作經驗。

他還喜歡在位于倫敦以西100英里的威爾特郡農村的公司園區展示其他英國發明家的作品。作為英國脫歐的支持者,戴森將總部遷至新加坡的計劃遭到了批評。

秘密守護者

戴森公司是一家擁有14,000名員工的企業,是一家對保護公司機密幾乎偏執的企業。這種行為最早可以追溯到與蘋果競爭的Ballbarrow(球輪手推車)的設計遭到盜版的時代。它是專利保護的積極訴訟方,曾經與胡佛(Hoover)和三星(Samsung)等公司打過專利官司。員工們在工作中通常只允許了解和自身工作相關的內容,不允許在團隊之外討論項目,包括在公司食堂。

Improbable though it seems in retrospect, there were good reasons for James Dyson to attempt to make an all-electric automobile. Electrification presented a once-in-a-century opportunity in the auto industry, one that Dyson was not alone in spotting. Electric powertrains require only about 20 moving parts compared with more than 2,000 for cars with internal combustion engines—a fact that theoretically lowers barriers to entry. What’s more, Tesla had caught the global automotive industry sleeping on EVs, and several years ago, it looked as if there was room for more entrants. Apple was rumored to be working on a car, for example, as was Google. “Anybody can build an electric car,” veteran automotive analyst Maryann Keller says. “It’s an open playing field.”

Dyson thought he had a better shot than most. His company was thriving, with 2018 sales jumping 25% to a record $5.6 billion. Pretax operating profits topped $1 billion for the first time, driven by strong demand in Asia, where Dyson is a status-conferring consumer brand. Through its vacuums, Dyson’s company already was a global leader in electric motors. It knew batteries too, thanks to its cordless products. Key EV concepts like airflow and climate control also were present in all of Dyson’s appliances. “When we realized, almost by accident, that we had the technology to build an electric car, it was natural to go into it,” Dyson says. Back in 2015, when he first conceived of it, Dyson says there seemed to be ample room in the market for a chassis-to-moonroof rethink of what an EV should be. “You have to remember that four or five years ago, only Tesla was on the scene,” he says. “So it was a very different sort of environment.”

午饭福利视频合集40The inventor had made a career of proving skeptics wrong. He’d successfully reimagined one mundane household product after another, starting with an innovative wheelbarrow in 1974. He’d made his name and fortune with the bagless vacuum cleaner, which used a “cyclone” effect to draw dust out of the air. Launched in 1993, the vacuums featured a transparent bin that let you see exactly how much dust you’d sucked up. (He famously overruled marketing experts who told him no one would buy a vacuum that showcased the dirt.) New models included advancements such as ball-like handle attachments for maneuvering into tight corners. Slim cordless uprights were made possible by the company’s electric motor research. Dyson was also adept at extending his expertise into new categories, like the Airblade hand dryer as well as bladeless fans and air purifiers.

午饭福利视频合集40While a car may have looked like a leap, -Dyson had been building up to designing one for years, in part because of a hankering to invent a solution for the pollution-spewing internal combustion engine. Affronted by the smell and smoke from diesel engines, in the late 1980s and early 1990s he developed a filter for the particulate belched by trucks, based on technology used in his bagless vacuum. But trucking companies refused to buy it, he says, because they didn’t want to have to empty the filter. He also blames U.K. and European regulators who insisted that diesel was “green and clean,” despite abundant scientific evidence of ill-health effects. “There was a sort of jilted feeling,” he says, acknowledging his search for new technology “has been lurking” ever since. Grand projects have been started for shakier reasons.

James Dyson

At 72, the British inventor has been innovating his whole adult life. His contraptions span from gardening to hair styling.

Inventor

Dyson’s first hit came in 1974, a redesigned wheelbarrow that replaced the typical narrow rubber wheel with a plastic sphere that resisted sinking into muddy ground. He called it the -Ballbarrow.

午饭福利视频合集40Dyson then turned his attention to the bagless vacuum. It took a decade and 5,127 prototypes to perfect his design for the product that ultimately would make his name and fortune.

Environmentalist

Dyson has been worked up about pollution for decades, but not out of concern for global warming. He loathed the exhaust spewed into the air by diesel-burning engines popular in Europe. “I hated the smell,” he says. “I hated the black smoke.”

He developed a filter to capture diesel particulates but couldn’t persuade trucking companies to buy it. His dislike of fossil-fuel burning engines persisted.

Landowner, philanthropist, patriot

午饭福利视频合集40Aside from his day job, Dyson runs a profitable agriculture business. He owns more farmland than anyone else in the U.K., including Queen Elizabeth II.

His James Dyson Foundation runs an annual award program in 27 countries, in search of the most innovative inventions. To train more U.K. engineers, he founded the James Dyson Institute, which offers undergraduates free engineering degrees and work experience.

He also likes to display the work of other British inventors on the grounds of his company’s corporate campus in rural Wiltshire, 100 miles west of London. A Brexit supporter, Dyson had critics who chafed at his plans to relocate HQ to Singapore.

Secret Keeper

Dyson is a 14,000-person company whose paranoia for protecting corporate secrets, dating back to piracy of the Ballbarrow’s design, rivals Apple’s. It is an active litigant on its patent portfolio, having tussled with the likes of Hoover and Samsung. Employees generally operate on a “need to know” basis and are expected not to discuss projects outside their teams, including in communal cafeterias.

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從阿斯頓·馬丁和捷豹路虎等汽車公司招募了一批行業資深人士后,戴森公司于2015年正式啟動絕密的汽車項目。這家公司習慣于秘密經營。戴森早年作為發明家的痛苦經歷(競爭對手竊取了他的獨輪車設計),讓這位企業家變得謹慎多疑。在產品信息公開之前,公司內部對這款汽車產品只有一個編號(這款失敗的汽車的早期版本叫做“N526”)。此外,公司通過指紋掃描儀控制著進入實驗室的入口。

但這次秘密泄露了。英國政府在其網上發布的一份產業戰略報告中無意中透露了戴森在電動汽車方面的工作,包括已經開展的工作,以及不斷擴大的投入——其中包括耗資2億英鎊翻新舊的英國皇家空軍機場作為汽車項目的設計和測試中心,并雇傭了數百人——迫使戴森必須做出澄清說明。2017年9月,他在倫敦舉行了一場新聞發布會,正式宣布了這個項目,并承諾投入20億英鎊,其中10億英鎊用于在電池技術上取得突破。

午饭福利视频合集40汽車專家認為,與打造一款新車所需的成本相比,這個數字微不足道。但這比戴森花在其它新產品研發上的錢要多幾個數量級。例如,公司于2016年推出的超音速吹風機耗時四年,開發成本僅為7,100萬美元。許多人還懷疑戴森的前提——即把其它產品的技術訣竅轉移到電動汽車。“電動汽車不僅僅是一個大吹風機。”美國能源部阿貢國家實驗室能源存儲研究聯合中心主任喬治·克拉布特里說。

戴森并沒有因此而感到沮喪。公司致力于從基本原則重新思考汽車,而這一原則是戴森在家用產品領域取得成功的基礎。戴森說:“我們想改變一切,而不使用其他人的基礎架構。”公司將在內部設計電動汽車的所有組件,從電動機到擋風玻璃雨刷。戴森的技術研究總監安德魯·克洛西爾說:“如果你看看其他汽車公司的運營方式,就會發現他們把零部件視為黑匣子。”他們從貨架上購買零件,然后把它們組裝起來。他說,這樣做成本更低,速度更快,但卻以犧牲創新為代價。戴森將嘗試一種完全不同的方法。(特斯拉也設計了自己的電動機、電池組和充電器。)

今年5月公布的專利文件顯示,戴森的團隊設計的汽車大小和路虎攬勝差不多,但軸距更長,車頂輪廓線更低,車頭很短,導致擋風玻璃嚴重傾斜。戴森說,目前的長軸距對于容納一個非常大的電池組是必要的,這將使該款汽車比目前市場上的任何電動汽車都具有更長的續航里程。輪胎也比平時更高更窄,這樣降低了滾動阻力,留出了更多的內部空間,并且允許更低的輪胎壓力,提供了更舒適的乘坐體驗。“我們追求的是更高的空氣動力學效率、滾動阻力效率、電動機效率和電池效率。”戴森說。

如今,道路上的每輛電動汽車都使用“濕式”鋰離子電池。在這種電池中,鋰與其他金屬(通常是鎳、錳和鈷)混合制成的陰極通過電解液與石墨陽極分離。這些電池效率高,但充電時間長,而且容易著火。戴森認為,他可以通過使用固態電池來獲得優勢。這種電池可以用陶瓷材料替代液體電解質,并使用純鋰金屬陽極,是電動汽車的理想選擇。它們的能量密度更大,這意味著它們將大大擴展汽車的續航里程。它們的充電速度也更快、更安全。

去年,戴森選擇新加坡作為他未來的電動汽車工廠的所在地。這家公司已經在鄰國馬來西亞生產其他產品,并將該地區視為汽車的主要潛在市場。然后,在今年初,戴森宣布將全球公司總部也遷至新加坡。這位創始人在新加坡購置了一套價值5,400萬美元的頂級公寓。一些小報視其為背叛行為并對這位企業家進行了譴責,因為他曾經呼吁重振英國工業實力,并且是英國脫歐的重要支持者。戴森指出,他在英國仍有5,000名員工。

Work on the top-secret car program began in earnest in 2015, as Dyson recruited auto industry veterans from Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover. The company is accustomed to operating clandestinely. Bitter experience from Dyson’s earliest days as an inventor, when he says a competitor pinched his wheelbarrow design, taught the entrepreneur to be paranoid. Products inside the company are known only by a number until they are publicly unveiled. (An early version of the doomed car was called “N526.”) Fingerprint scanners control access to labs.

午饭福利视频合集40But this time the secret got out. The U.K. government accidentally revealed Dyson’s work on an electric car in an industrial strategy report it published online. That, and the increasing scale of the endeavor—which included a 200-million-pound refurbishment of the old RAF airfield to serve as the design and testing hub for the car and the hiring of hundreds of people—forced Dyson to come clean. In September 2017, he held a press conference in London to officially announce the project, saying he was committing 2 billion pounds to the endeavor, including 1 billion aimed at producing a breakthrough in battery technology.

Automotive experts thought the sum was paltry compared with what would be needed to build a car. But it was orders of magnitude bigger than anything Dyson had ever spent on a new product. Its Supersonic hair dryer, for instance, which it launched in 2016, had taken four years and cost $71 million to develop. Many also doubted Dyson’s premise that its technical know-how would transfer to electric cars. “An electric vehicle is not just a big hair dryer,” says George Crabtree, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at the Argonne National Laboratory.

午饭福利视频合集40Dyson was undeterred. The company was committed to rethinking the car from first principles—a philosophy that had underpinned Dyson’s success in household products. “We wanted to change everything and not use other people’s architectural layout,” Dyson says. The company would design all its components in-house, from motors to windshield wipers. “If you look at the way other auto companies operate, they treat components as black boxes,” says Andrew Clothier, Dyson’s director of technical research. They buy parts off the shelf and bolt them together. That’s cheaper and faster but comes at the expense of innovation, he says. Dyson would try a completely different approach. (Tesla also designs its own electric motors, battery packs, and chargers.)

午饭福利视频合集40The car Dyson’s team came up with was about the size of a Range Rover but with a longer wheelbase; a lower roofline; and a short, stubbed nose leading to a dramatically sloped windscreen, according to patent filings made public in May. Dyson says now the long wheelbase was necessary to accommodate a very large battery pack that would have given the car more range than any EV currently on the market. The tires were taller and narrower than usual too. That reduced rolling resistance as well as accommodating more interior space and, by allowing for lower tire pressure, provided a more comfortable ride. “We were after aerodynamic efficiency, rolling resistance efficiency, electric motor efficiency, and battery efficiency,” Dyson says.

Every EV on the road today uses “wet” -lithium-ion batteries, in which a cathode made of lithium mixed with other metals (usually nickel, manganese, and cobalt) is separated from a graphite anode by an electrolyte solution. These cells are efficient but take time to charge and are prone to catching fire. Dyson thought he could gain an edge by using solid-state batteries instead. Such batteries, which replace the liquid electrolyte with a ceramic material and use a pure lithium metal anode, are the Holy Grail for EVs. They pack more power for their weight, meaning they would vastly extend the car’s range. They also charge far faster and are much safer.

午饭福利视频合集40Last year, Dyson selected Singapore as the site for his future EV factory. The company already made its other products in neighboring Malaysia, and it saw the region as a key potential market for the car. Then, earlier this year, Dyson announced it would shift its global corporate headquarters to Singapore too. The founder bought a $54 million penthouse apartment in the city-state. Tabloids leveled accusations of betrayal at the entrepreneur, who had called for a revival of British industrial prowess and is a prominent proponent of Brexit, the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union. Dyson notes he continues to employ 5,000 people in the U.K.

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午饭福利视频合集40一直以來,詹姆斯·戴森都知道這個項目可能比他之前嘗試過的任何項目都要困難。那是在通用汽車、大眾汽車等知名汽車制造商全力投入電動汽車之前。他知道自己必須花很多錢,而且沒有經銷商網絡,他將不得不依靠數字渠道直接銷售,就像特斯拉一樣,并找到一種方式來為汽車售后服務提供支持。但他沒有想到這項任務會如此艱巨。

午饭福利视频合集40最令人生畏的是行業競爭。歐洲和中國的監管機構在未來幾十年禁止汽油發動機的舉措,成為主要汽車制造商投身電動汽車的催化劑。預計在未來十年中,它們將共同為電動汽車開發注入3,000億美元。此外,戴森的團隊突然面臨資金問題,而此時正是在新加坡開始安裝制造設備的時候。“從頭開始做所有事情可能會增加成本。”戴森反思到。他還說,由于公司無法保證大批量生產,因此無法像在數十年的家用電器行業中那樣與供應商達成最佳協議。 而且,在沒有透露任何細節的情況下,他承認公司想要使用的電池價格高于行業標準。

午饭福利视频合集40戴森一直都知道他的車不便宜。他之前曾經對記者開玩笑說,相較于汽車價格,可能更合適的話題是購買一輛車所需的首付金額。沒有最貴,只有更貴。戴森表示,如果他的電動汽車要盈利,就必須進入“高端市場”。雖然他拒絕透公司正在考慮的定價,但特斯拉Model X的起價約為10.4萬美元,位于加州的中資初創企業Faraday Future正計劃推出一款超豪華SUV,售價可能高達18萬美元。戴森表示:“在這個價位上,我們可以賣出一些汽車,但不夠數量。”

All along, James Dyson knew this project was likely to be harder than any he’d attempted previously. And that was before automakers like General Motors, Volkswagen, and others committed wholeheartedly to EVs. He knew that he’d have to spend a lot of money and that without a dealer network, he would have to rely on direct sales through digital channels, much like Tesla, and find a way to support and service the cars in the aftermarket. But he was unprepared for just how tough the task would prove to be.

Most daunting was the competition. European and Chinese regulatory moves to ban gas engines in coming decades acted as a catalyst for major automakers. Together, they are expected to pump $300 billion into electric car development in the next decade. Suddenly, Dyson’s team faced a financial reckoning just as it was time to begin installing manufacturing equipment in Singapore. “Doing everything from scratch probably put up the cost,” Dyson reflects. He also says that because the company could not guarantee high volumes, it could not strike the best deals with suppliers, as it had throughout decades of building appliances. And, without revealing any details, he admits the battery that the company wanted to use was more expensive than industry standards.

午饭福利视频合集40Dyson always knew his car wouldn’t be cheap. He had previously joked to reporters that it might be more appropriate to talk about the size of the down payment required to buy one rather than the sticker price. But there’s expensive, and then there’s exorbitant. If his EV were to turn a profit, it would have to enter the market “right at the top end,” Dyson says. While he declines to reveal the price the company was considering, the Tesla Model X starts at about $104,000, and Faraday Future, a Chinese-backed startup in California, is planning to launch an ultraluxury SUV that may cost as much as $180,000. “It’s a price where we could sell some but not enough,” Dyson says.

一項并不簡單的計劃:一份專利示意圖顯示出戴森公司計劃生產的電動汽車的外貌。圖片來源:COURTESY OF DYSON

午饭福利视频合集40不過最后,戴森并沒有對已經投資于汽車項目的虧損感到心疼。他說:“這不是一次投資行為,我們對此有心理準備。”在財務上持保守態度的戴森表示,他絕不會為了自己汽車項目而讓公司陷入財務危機。截至2018年年底,戴森的債務約為3.68億英鎊(合4.92億美元),處于可控狀態,大部分是長期債務。他拒絕過度杠桿化,或上市,因為這將削弱他的控制權。他說:“我們不能無限地使用股東資金,也沒有募集股東資金的潛力。我們是一家家族企業。”

戴森表示,他關注的是汽車的“BAM”——汽車的制造成本和材料成本,因此他必須對汽車定價,以獲得可接受的利潤率。讓戴森擔心的不是競爭對手動輒在電動汽車上數十億美元的投資,而是他們愿意虧本出售汽車。咨詢公司Navigant負責跟蹤電動車行業的分析師薩姆·阿布薩米德表示,一輛普通電動汽車的盈虧平衡點在8萬美元左右。奔馳、寶馬和捷豹今年都推出了電動豪華SUV,起價約為7萬美元。特斯拉和蔚來汽車正在以這個價格的一半銷售面向大眾市場的電動汽車(特斯拉2018年的投入達到35億美元,超過戴森對其整個電動汽車項目的預算)。戴森擔心他的電動汽車相比之下會貴得多。

午饭福利视频合集40戴森在之前曾經面臨過類似的困境。2000年11月,公司推出了一款名為Contrarotator的洗衣機。產品采用了一個巧妙的設計——兩個朝相反方向旋轉的鼓。但戴森表示,與汽車一樣,公司新穎的設計和較低的銷量讓它在與供應商的競爭中幾乎沒有優勢。他表示:“我發現,它的制造成本至少是傳統洗衣機的2.5倍。”最終,戴森以大約1,000英鎊(當時約合1,500美元)的價格出售這種洗衣機,至少比競爭對手高出30%。即便如此,每臺洗衣機都是賠錢的。最終,在2005年,公司決定停止生產。戴森發誓再也不會以低于成本的價格出售產品。

午饭福利视频合集40在決定放棄電動汽車項目之前,戴森聘請投資銀行家試圖出售項目。“他們接觸過‘所有你能想到的人’,戴森說。(英國《金融時報》報道稱,捷豹路虎就是其中之一。)但沒有一個人愿意接手。“我們沒有和任何人達成協議。”他說。9月下旬,戴森做出了最終的決定,放棄該項目。

午饭福利视频合集40實際上,扼殺新產品對于戴森來說并不罕見。戴森公司的創意總監斯蒂芬·庫特尼說:“這令人心碎。但這是研發工作的本質。”通常,這家低調的公司會在私下里悄無聲息接受失敗。但在電動汽車項目上,競爭對手、變速器專家、電池專家和財經記者都在密切關注著它的一舉一動。“這是我們做過的最艱難的決定。”戴森說。“很多設計師和工程師都為此付出了很多努力,但卻沒有看到成效。”公司計劃為開發這款車的523名員工盡可能地在其他部門找到崗位。但是并沒有足夠的崗位能夠容納所有人。

At the end of the day, Dyson didn’t blink at the “sunk costs” of capital already invested in the car project. “It wasn’t the investment at all,” he says. “We’d already committed that.” Fiscally conservative, Dyson says he would never consider putting his company in financial jeopardy for the sake of his car. At the end of 2018, Dyson’s debt was a manageable 368?million pounds ($492 million), most of it long term. He refused to over leverage Dyson or take it public, which would dilute his control. “We don’t have endless shareholders’ money or the potential to raise shareholders’ money,” he says. “We’re a family business.”

午饭福利视频合集40Dyson says he focused on “the BAM”—the build and materials cost—of the car and therefore where he’d have to price it to earn an acceptable margin. What worried Dyson wasn’t the billions competitors were investing in EVs; it was their willingness to sell cars at a loss. Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst who tracks the EV sector for the consulting firm Navigant, says the break-even price for a generic electric car is about $80,000. Mercedes, BMW, and Jaguar all have electric luxury SUVs entering the market this year with a starting price of around $70,000. And Tesla and Nio are selling mass-market electric cars at half that price. (Tesla’s burn rate hit an annual pace of $3.5 billion in 2018—more than Dyson had pledged to its entire EV project.) Dyson feared his EV would look even pricier in comparison.

Once before, Dyson had faced a similar dilemma. In November 2000, the company unveiled a washing machine called the Contrarotator. The ingenious design had two drums that spun in opposite directions. But, as with the car, Dyson says, the company’s novel design and low volumes gave it little leverage with suppliers. “I worked out it cost at least two-and-half times more to make than a conventional washing machine,” he says. Ultimately, Dyson sold the washers for about 1,000 pounds ($1,500 at the time), at least 30% more than competitors’, and even then it lost money on every one. Eventually, in 2005, the company decided to discontinue it. Dyson vowed never to sell a product below cost again.

Before deciding to abandon the car, Dyson hired bankers to try to sell the division. They approached “all the people you might imagine,” says Dyson. (The Financial Times reported Jaguar Land Rover was among them.) No one bit. “We didn’t really get close to anyone,” he says. In late September, Dyson made the fateful decision to pull the plug.

Killing fledgling products actually isn’t that unusual for Dyson. “It’s heartbreaking,” says Stephen Courtney, Dyson’s concept director. “But it is sort of the nature of working in research.” Normally, the buttoned-up company fails privately and quietly. With the EV, competitors, gearheads, battery experts, and business journalists were scrutinizing its every move. “It was the hardest decision we’ve ever had to make,” says Dyson. “So many designers and engineers have put so much effort into it, and it hadn’t seen the light of day.” The company plans to find roles elsewhere for as many as possible of the 523 employees who worked on the car. But there won’t be room for all of them.

圖片來源:ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF DYSON

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戴森公司位于倫敦西部約100英里處的馬姆斯伯里(Malmesbury)企業園區占地67英畝,巧妙的經典工業設計實例在其間隨處可見,其中包括亞力克·伊西戈尼斯最初設計的Mini Cooper(它被一分為二,以展示其對室內空間的巧妙利用)、一輛本田Super Cub摩托車以及兩架英國戰機。總有一天,戴森公司的電動汽車原型會加入它們的行列。與此同時,已經有跡象表明,公司在汽車領域的努力不會白費。

在戴森公司受人關注的鏡面玻璃D9研究實驗室后面,正在建造一座沒有窗戶的工業廠房。在那里,公司已經建造了歐洲最大的固態電池先進原型實驗室。除了電動汽車,固態電池在從移動電話到消費類電子產品再到飛機等的各個領域里都有潛在的用途。戴森表示,他將繼續在這些領域投資。戴森的能源儲存產業化主管邁克·倫德爾表示:“我們認為,我們已經取得了突破性和革命性的成果。”名為D9A的新電池原型工廠應該能夠讓戴森“盡快將固態電池推向市場,”倫德爾說。

公司還在汽車領域以外的機器人領域大舉投資。在神秘的D9大樓的一個區域內,一個由65名機器人研究人員組成的團隊正在研究機器人,其中大部分隱藏在防水油布下,供記者參觀。從有限的幾件可視的東西——像那把奇怪的棕色大扶手椅放在一張桌子上,以及桌子上有個大東西藏在一張床單下面——就可以清楚地判斷,這并不是現有的機器人吸塵器——戴森360 Eye的改進。戴森的機器人研究主管文森特·克萊克曾經領導過軟銀的仿人機器人Pepper和Romeo的設計。戴森是在開發一個完全仿人的機器人管家還是女傭?克萊克拒絕透露,盡管他承認公司正致力于讓機器人感知三維世界。

午饭福利视频合集40在宣布退出汽車項目的第二天,戴森似乎悶悶不樂,但依然很平靜,充滿哲理。他談到自己的在研產品時,包括那些可能會從汽車項目研究中得到啟發的小電器時說:“目前我們有很多令人興奮的產品,退出汽車項目的一個好的方面是我們可以專注于這些產品的開發。”戴森可能錯過了擊敗競爭對手億萬富翁埃隆·馬斯克的機會。但這位發明家似乎急于回到實驗室,把自己的名字寫在另一個突破性的產品上。(財富中文網)

本文另一版本登載于《財富》雜志2019年11月刊,標題為《詹姆斯·戴森的電動汽車之殤》。

Dyson’s 67-acre corporate campus in Malmesbury, about 100 miles west of London, is sprinkled with iconic examples of ingenious industrial design, among them an original Alec Issigonis–designed Mini Cooper, bisected to show off its clever use of interior space; a Honda Super Cub motorcycle; and two British fighter jets. One day a prototype of Dyson’s electric car may join them. In the meantime, there are already hints that the company’s automotive efforts won’t be wasted.

In a windowless industrial shed being constructed behind Dyson’s striking mirrored-glass D9 research lab, the company has built the largest advanced prototyping lab for solid-state batteries in Europe. Beyond EVs, solid-state batteries have potential uses in everything from mobile phones to consumer electronics to aircraft. And Dyson says it will continue its investment in them. “We think we’ve got something that is groundbreaking and revolutionary,” says Mike Rendall, Dyson’s head of energy storage industrialization. Called D9A, the new battery prototyping facility should enable Dyson “to bring solid-state batteries to market as soon as possible,” Rendall says.

午饭福利视频合集40The company is also investing heavily in robotics with uses beyond automobiles. Inside a section of the secretive D9 building, a team of 65 robotics researchers are working on machinery, much of it hidden under tarps for a journalist’s visit. It is clear from what little is visible—like the big brown armchair, curiously perched on a table, upon which sits something big under a sheet—that it is not simply an evolution of its existing robot vacuum cleaner, the Dyson’s 360 Eye. Dyson’s director of robotics research, Vincent Clerc, previously led SoftBank’s design of its humanoid robots -Pepper and Romeo. Is Dyson developing a fully humanoid robot butler or maid? Clerc won’t say, although he allows that the company is focused on getting robots to perceive the world in three dimensions.

The day after canceling the car, Dyson seems subdued but philosophical. “There’s lots of exciting stuff,” he says of his product pipeline, including gadgets that may benefit from the automotive research. “And the silver lining of this horrible decision is we can concentrate on those.” Dyson may have missed his chance to beat rival billionaire Elon Musk. But the inventor seems eager to get back to the lab and put his name on yet another breakthrough product.?

A version of this article appears in the November 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “James Dyson's Electric Shock.”

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