Now that the worst part of the global economic crisis is over, investors are fired up for any investment opportunity that looks good and doesn’t smell funny. Especially in the alternative-energy field. Some ventures make sense while others are based on a rather exotic logic. Better Place, for instance: its institutional investors say it’s “the only EV + infrastructure play”, and therefore something you’d better not miss. I’d just say it requires weird financial reasoning to justify electric filling stations stocked with expensive exchange batteries.
Earlier this week, I was at Mindset Holding’s press conference in Switzerland, where they announced they had received 75 million Swiss Francs of financing from a US fund, GEM Group, with another 108 millions optional. Mindset will be using this money to produce its exotic electric sports coupe — the one I thought was fantastically forward-looking when I witnessed it last year.
Is this madness? After all, Mindset in 2012 will be competing with Tesla’s Model S, the Fisker Karma, and numerous electrified or hybridized German and Japanese luxury cars. Who’d spend 100,000 Francs on a Swiss made electric three-seater?
Well, first of all, Mindset has assembled a team of pretty impressive industrial partners. The car will be built by Xenatec, a contract manufacturing company that is already set to produce the spectacular (and odd) Maybach Coupe. Brusa, a leading Switzerland-based supplier, will be demonstrating the quality of their battery and electronics in the electric coupe. Mindset’s REX (range-extender engine) is a wonderfully innovative, low-friction one-cylinder machine that, because it uses roller bearings, will probably never need an oil change and doesn’t mind standing times of several months. Weighing only 38 KG as a combined motor-generator unit, it is made by Swissauto, another company to watch.
Management looks fit, too. Mindset’s CEO, Lorenzo Schmid, is something of a celebrity in both the investment and EV fields. The company’s COO, Leon Hustinx, spent several decades at Mercedes, and in the end was in charge of marketing the Maybach and the SLR McLaren, so he knows something about the premium segment. (No, you don’t have to remind me that the Maybach is not desirable). In Prof. Paolo Tumminelli, Mindset has a communications VP who is a renowned author of automotive design books.
Still — would you bank $190 million on a car with a radical new concept and new technology, which will be selling to a new market? The lame-snark response would be to call anybody who did reckless.
My opinion: the more daring, unusual, advanced cars out there, the better. Without this kind of risky investing philosophy, the Citroen DS would never have been built. Down with beancounter cars! Capitalism is all about progress.