British electric vehicle start-up Arrival is facing major delays to the sale of its first working van after one caught fire during a demonstration for delivery firm UPS – its largest customer.
The struggling firm has been hit by a series of issues as it tries to bring its innovative products to market, including a battery blaze in early December at its plant in Banbury, Oxfordshire.
No one was hurt in the incident, but after the van was wheeled out of the factory the flames melted part of the surface of the car park, the Financial Times reported. It is expected to delay delivery of the van by several years.
Morale among staff has sunk to ‘rock bottom’ following widespread job losses to preserve the firm’s dwindling cash pile and a ‘distracting’ side-project to make an electric jet, sources told the FT.
Discontent among employees has even led to tools being stolen from one of Arrival’s sites and leaks of commercial information, it is claimed.
The company, which is headquartered in London, was hailed as a British success story after achieving an eye-watering $15billion (£13m) valuation.
Last year, it partnered with Uber to build a fleet of electric cars that were set to hit streets across Europe by 2025.
But Arrival has since run into production difficulties, prompting a colossal fall in its share price to make the company now worth just $444m (£388m).
Beginning production ‘is much more difficult than we thought, for sure’, CEO Denis Sverdlov has previously admitted.
Arrival has now ditched its car and bus projects to save money and is now focusing on building an electric van for the US market.
The company said it made a van in September which proves its manufacturing process works, but sources told the FT the model in question was largely built by hand.
Last month, the firm prompted dismay in the UK after announcing it was relocating manufacturing to the US, prompting hundreds of job losses.
Bosses have also raised eyebrows among staff over its decision to ringfence funding for a previously undisclosed venture – making an electric jet plane.
After the FT approached Mr Sverdlov with a detailed list of questions, he sent an internal message accusing anyone providing information of ‘betrayal’, the newspaper reported.