China's electric vehicle (EV) startup Seres, formerly known as SF Motors, on Tuesday denied it has fired 90 employees at its Silicon Valley office, saying only 47 jobs were cut across the United States.
Seres CEO James Taylor told Xinhua that the job eliminations included 17 positions at the Silicon Valley office and about 30 at the company's Mishawaka assembly plant in Indiana, which "represent the necessary adjustments to respond to our new business plan and evolving market conditions."
He said Seres has decided to delay the launch of the production version of the SF5 crossover in the U.S. market.
The SF5 model, first unveiled in Silicon Valley in March 2018, is a small SUV boasting as much as 684 horsepower with 300 miles (about 480 km) of range, equipped with advanced intelligent EV technologies.
Taylor said the decision was based on assessment of the current state of the auto market in China and the uncertainty of the U.S.-China trade negotiations, as well as tariff considerations.
The Seres CEO noted that with the postponement of the SF5 in the U.S. market, the company will focus on facilitating the execution of a successful launch of the product in China.
"Launching a new product type in two markets simultaneously, with one of those markets here in the U.S. being brand new to the company, is very complex and too risky," he explained.
"Once the launch in China has stabilized, we have market feedback about the reception of the new brand and car, and after the (China-U.S.) trade talks have finished, we can shift our focus back to launching cars in the U.S. market," Taylor said.
He asserted that the strategy adjustment in the United States will not have any impact on the launch in China. "This only creates a delay in the U.S. market. Their launch is proceeding according to their plan."
Taylor said it will remain unchanged that a significant portion of the research and development (R&D) for the company is based here in Silicon Valley.
"The R&D teams have not been impacted and will continue to generate next generation technology and designs for the company," he said.
Taylor said the Seres R&D teams are working on electric vehicle powertrains, autonomous driving, and battery cell technology, and the Chinese automaker is willing to share its technologies and manufacturing capacity with other companies.
"We are eager to assist companies in need of these parts and systems or capabilities, and we are also discussing with many companies about contract manufacturing vehicles for them at our assembly plant in Indiana," he added.
Seres is the EV unit of China's Chongqing Sokon Industry Group (Sokon), whose U.S. headquarters is in Santa Clara, Silicon Valley. Founded in 2016, the company is poised to become a serious competitor to U.S. EV giant Tesla in China with plans to expand globally, including the U.S. market.