XAVIER Gordon thought his meeting with financier Zachary Harding had failed and began to doubt his vision of making the Caribbean the most advanced electric vehicle (EV) market in the world would ever come to fruition.
Gordon's vision was born out of an experience while driving an EV in Canada and he came to the conclusion that the Caribbean was an ideal market for EVs for two reasons: the temperature profile of the region and the size of countries mean relatively low driving distances.
So five years ago he left Canada, along with his business partner Carey Escoffery, to return to his homeland Jamaica. He was hopeful that his meeting with Harding would immediately produce a partnership that would help him to realise his vision. But it would take a few months before the Jamaican businessman would call him back, saying, "Let's get to work."
This partnership between Gordon, Escoffery and Harding would culminate in the official launch of Flash Motors Company Limited in March 2022 as Jamaica's first and only dedicated EV provider. But the goal of the company was still to supply a full suite of world-class EVs, EV service equipment, and charging network solutions across the Caribbean.
The launch of Flash Motors would come with the announcement that the company had partnered with Stewart's Auto Sales on the distribution of Chinese-manufactured Build Your Dreams (BYD) EVs.
While many saw the launch of Flash Motors as the start of the company, Gordon told Jamaica Observer that he has had to lean on the guidance of Harding over the last five years.
"He realised that the benefits of Flash Motors were not just for individuals but also for government fleets, particularly transit agencies. [So] we started working together around 2018 on seeing how we could deploy electric vehicles in fleets," he explained.
Since then, Gordon and Escoffery have worked with the governments of St Lucia, Barbados and Bermuda on electrifying their fleets while educating them on the business models that pointed to cost savings and environmental protection. In Barbados the company has introduced 25 buses to the local transit agency's fleet.
In Guyana and Belize the team has assisted regional development agencies in helping utility companies to plan and map out the infrastructure investment needed to install electric vehicle charging stations.
"Our work across the region has given us insight into what potential customers and, more importantly, stakeholders in each [Caribbean market] will need in order to make electric mobility successful. So our consulting work really informed us as to what the potential problems could be and helped us to really focus on finding solutions to those problems," Gordon told Sunday Finance.
With this in mind, Flash Motors has already identified dealer partners across the Caribbean that will distribute BYD vehicles. However, Gordon notes that the company is cautious not to make any announcements before having tested its business model.
On this note he said the company is still in its pre-launch phase.
"We still consider ourselves at the pre-launch stage in Jamaica; however, Jamaica will be our first launch market," he said.
In fact, last Friday Flash Motors joined with Inter-American Development Bank, Jamaica Public Service, and Stewart's Auto Sales to launch the Government of Jamaica's Electric Vehicle Trial Programme. As part of the programme, five government ministries will test-drive BYD vehicles for a period to gather data.
According to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, data collected from the pilot will assist the Government in the implementation of its electric mobility policy. He added that as part of the implementation, the Government can become a "first mover" by electrifying its fleet.
In the meantime, Gordon noted that market response to Flash Motors' offering in Jamaica has been overwhelming.
"...What we're trying to do is manage expectation in each our markets. The BYD product has been remarkably successful thus far in Jamaica, and so to ensure that our partners [in other markets] are ready for the amount of interest they're going to receive in the pre-launch phase we're being very strategic in the timing of our announcements," he outlined.
Given the positive results of the company's partnership with Stewart's Auto Sales so far, Gordon said he wants to ensure that the facilities, training, sales and service are up to standard in other Caribbean jurisdictions before launching. The CEO pointed out, though, that the company will announce its other dealer partners in the region over the next 18 months.
When asked if Flash Motors will introduce other EV brands, the CEO noted," We'll be introducing other manufacturers into the market next year so BYD will have a presence in the region and we'll continue to build out our offerings with other brands as well."