British electric appliance pioneer Dyson said Tuesday it had picked Singapore as the site for its first electric car plant, sparking criticism of the company's Brexit-backing billionaire founder for not investing more in British manufacturing.
Dyson, founded and owned by serial entrepreneur James Dyson, said the factory was scheduled for completion in 2020 as part of a £2.5 billion (S$4.5 billion) global investment drive in new technology.
The company, best known for its cordless vacuum cleaners, hand dryers and fans, is aiming to launch electric vehicles in 2021.
"The decision of where to make our car is complex, based on supply chains, access to markets and the availability of the expertise that will help us achieve our ambitions," Dyson chief executive Jim Rowan said in a statement.
"Our existing footprint and team in Singapore, combined with the nation's significant advanced manufacturing expertise, made it a frontrunner. Singapore also offers access to high-growth markets as well as an extensive supply chain and a highly-skilled workforce," Rowan said.
"Singapore has a comparatively high cost base, but also great technology expertise and focus. It is therefore the right place to make high quality technology loaded machines, and the right place to make our electric vehicle."
The company already has production facilities in Malaysia and Singapore.
Snubbed Britain for Singapore
Best for Britain, an anti-Brexit campaign group, called the news "astonishing".
"He's snubbed Britain for Singapore," the group tweeted.
Opposition Labour MP Ian Murray, a supporter of Best for Britain, said: "When even someone who claims there will be a resurgence in British manufacturing after Brexit isn't prepared to put his money where his mouth is, it raises serious questions".
But Singapore welcomed the decision, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said will see car assembly return to the city-state for the first time since the 1980s.
"Now we will manufacture cars again, except this time greener, better, and more high-tech!" he wrote on his Facebook page.
Dyson announced his decision to launch electric cars last year -- a sector in which the company will face stiff competition from established players.
Electric vehicles are increasing in popularity as governments worldwide drive forward plans to gradually phase out polluting petrol and diesel cars.
Dyson told AFP in an interview earlier this year that electric cars were already available to order and the manufacturing location would be either in Britain or Asia.
Dyson, a vocal supporter of the campaign to leave the EU, said he was confident the EU and Britain would reach an agreement on free trade after Britain leaves the bloc.
"I think it would be hurtful to both sides not to do that," he said.
The company said that 2017 operating profit surged by almost one third to around £800 million, aided by fast growth in China, India, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Revenues leapt 40 per cent to £3.5 billion.
Dyson employs more than 12,000 people across the world, including 4,800 in Britain.