Several executives from perpetual automotive startup Faraday Future have reportedly been subpoenaed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as part of an investigation into inaccurate statements made to investors. Though, considering the nameplate’s history, it would be impossible to assume which item the SEC will be focusing on thanks to FF’s exceptionally long history of industrial misgivings.
We’ve covered Faraday Future’s long and bizarre story from the early days of delivering half-baked, though otherwise impressive, concepts to its more recent status as an automaker in the ethereal sense. It’s promised the moon and only managed to deliver a handful of production husks that never surpassed the body-in-white phase and some “production-intent” prototypes of the FF91. Though the larger story is the SEC’s sudden interest in electric vehicle startups that went public via mergers with blank check firms, better known as special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), over the last two years.
Lordstown Motors has gone from the savior of Ohio to just another blowhard electric vehicle startup. Last year, it became the focus of investment research firm Hindenburg Research and an incredibly damning report that accused the company of fraudulent behavior. The paper cited thousands of non-binding, no-deposit orders and was proven right a few months later when the startup announced it didn’t actually have enough money to commence commercial production. By June, Lordstown was under investigation and losing top-ranking executive with nothing to show for itself other than a factory it purchased from General Motors at a discount where it installed a pointless solar panel array. The company said it would be selling the plant to Foxconn Technology Group (Hon Hai Technology Group) in October, along with $50 million in stock, with the plan being to make the Taiwanese firm a contract assembler for the Lordstown Endurance pickup.
It’s going to need that money too because GM is severing ties with the startup and has confirmed it offloaded its remaining stock over the holidays. While the Detroit-based automaker only held about $7.5 million worth of shares, it still represented about 5 percent of Lordstown and continued support of a business that looked to be foundering.
Nikola Corp. has agreed to pay $125 million to settle charges levied by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the company actively defrauded investors by providing misleading information about its technical prowess, production capabilities, and general prospects.
The settlement comes after a salvo of civil and criminal charges were launched against Nikola’s founder Trevor Milton, who got in trouble for convincing investors that the prospective automaker had fully functional prototypes boasting technologies other companies would have envied when that wasn’t actually the case. Milton was chided for using social media to promote false claims about the business, with his pleading not guilty to fraud charges brought up by the Department of Justice in July.
While the concept of mobility has often turned out to be a buzz phrase used by executives unsure of where to place hypothetical revenue streams and burgeoning technologies, it has simultaneously yielded a handful of enterprising business premises with the potential to stand on their own. Nuro, the American robotics company fielding pint-sized delivery drones, is among them and has made a case for itself by eliminating humans from the equation entirely and providing unique scenarios for its services.
The startup has been getting a smattering of positive attention since its formation in 2015 and recently raised $600 million during its latest funding round, bringing its valuation to an impressive $8.6 billion.
Despite the concept of autonomous cars suggesting a seamless, hands-free driving experience as far back as the late 1950s, only the peripheral technologies have made their way into the real world. Our ancestors would have marveled at the video displays, powertrains, and navigation systems available today. But the 21st century concept of “mobility” has also turned out to be a bit of a scam.
Formerly a catch-all term for autonomous transportation, the phrase has been redefined by the industry to pertain to subscription fees, over-the-air updates, digitally affixing your credit card information to the vehicle, and just about any present-day feature it’s interested in selling. Meanwhile, the self-driving programs that kicked off the would-be renaissance have been stagnating as companies cannot quite figure out how to teach a car to successfully assume all of the duties of a human driver. However there’s a German startup that’s attempting to circumvent those obstacles by employing digital chauffeurs working from far-off locations.
We’ve got more bad news about Lordstown Motors. Following several volleys of bad mojo ending with the departure of its upper management, the EV startup has informed the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Thursday that it doesn’t have any binding purchase orders or commitments.
That’s not what the company was saying several months ago. Hell, that wasn’t even what it said earlier this week when President Rich Schmidt told the Automotive Press Association the company had enough orders to support two years of production. Since the ability to sell automobiles is a somewhat relevant factor in an automaker’s long-term success, we’re getting concerned that Lordstown isn’t long for this world.
Starting a car brand has to be among the more foolhardy endeavors one can embark upon. The industry is saturated with giant, multinational companies that don’t want competition and a regulatory environment that requires a ludicrous amount of wealth and plenty of time to overcome. Despite this, we’ve seen countless electric vehicle startups attempting to accrete into something profitable over the last few years. But even the winners have found themselves wholly dependent upon government-backed. carbon-credit schemes or blank-check firms designed to guarantee their IPOs are astronomically high — often before they’ve shown a functional prototype.
This makes distinguishing a company with potential from those that are dead on arrival incredibly difficult. Though it’s getting easier to see which side of the fence Lordstown Motors will be occupying after a particularly grim string of months. One of its prototypes spontaneously combusted during testing last March, at roughly the same time Hindenburg Research was accusing it of fraud. More recently, the business lost CEO Steve Burns and confessed that it was in desperate need of money to start production.
The lawsuits continue against EV startup Rivian. Though it hasn’t built any vehicles to date, the company has an aggressive plan to manufacture its “Tesla killer” vehicles at the former Diamond Star Motors plant at Normal, Illinois, and sell its wares directly to customers via nine showrooms across the nation. Various parties take issue with both the building and selling facets at Rivian, and the company has lawsuits with dealers in Illinois as well as Tesla.
General Motors announced it will be taking an 11-percent stake in Nikola on Tuesday. It even said it would be actively helping the startup produce the hydrogen/battery-powered Badger pickup, sending the firm’s already-insane share price through the roof. Nikola shares were up 30 percent before the trading day even began, with the General seeing some positive changes in its own stock. Things only improved from there for both companies as news of the partnership continued to spread.
The deal is costing GM $2 billion and allots it one board member of its choosing in exchange for its manufacturing expertise.
Electric vehicle startup Bollinger announced plans to double its staff on Tuesday and has opened a new headquarters substantially larger than its original building. While its previous move took the company from New York to Michigan, its latest relocation keeps it within metropolitan Detroit — specifically Oak Park, which is roughly four miles away from the old Ferndale facility.
The change is supposed to help ready the business for its upcoming B1 utility and B2 pickup, which will need additional investments to get off the ground, as well as help secure deal with a contract manufacturer. EV companies seem to have no trouble attracting investors, despite most of them looking like carbon copies of each other. All you need is an electric platform that can be shared across numerous nameplates with the least imaginative alphanumeric names imaginable and Wall Street seems happy enough.
Canoo Holdings Ltd., creator of highly configurable electric vehicles built atop its proprietary “skateboard” platform, plans to merge with a blank-check firm in order to seek investor cash. If past examples of EV startups going public are any indication, Canoo will soon be valued at eleventy bazillion dollars, give or take a few bucks.
On Tuesday, the company announced a tie-up with Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp. IV, a special purpose acquisition company, in order to get itself a listing on the Nasdaq.
Tesla is accusing Rivian Automotive of poaching its employees and lifting trade secrets in a recent complaint filed in San Jose, CA. Founded in 2009 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology alum R.J. Scaringe, Rivian has made inroads with the automotive sector and established partnerships with entities like Amazon and Ford Motor Company ( we think).
While its home base is presently TBD, as the company considers shifting more of its staff to the West Coast, its mission has remained consistent — manufacture all-electric SUVs and pickups so they can wash over North America.
Rivian is one of those “Tesla killers” you keep hearing about before they suddenly blip out of existence, but it has enough weight behind it to potentially offer real competition in the future it plays its cards right. Tesla is just worried that some of those cards might not belong to Rivian.
Among electric vehicle startups, Rivian is the nonconformist. Compared to its braggadocious contemporaries, many of which are still years away from building anything, the Michigan-based company is well-poised to deliver a drivable product within a year’s time, with only scant attention paid to the possibilities of going public on a raft of promises.
We’ve already seen what Rivian plans to offer. Metal has met eyes. An assembly plant is already gearing up, with a list of suppliers on hand to pull off production of the R1S SUV and R1T pickup, and, most important of all, there’s money to fund it. It all sounds so… conventional.
If it seems like years have passed since we’ve issued an update on Ineos Group’s attempt at building a Defender-inspired SUV, that’s because it has been. The British chemical conglomerate asked Land Rover if it could assemble copies of the then-defunct automobile back in 2016, only to be told to take a hike. Unfazed, CEO Jim Ratcliffe said Ineos would move ahead on the program anyway — focusing instead on building an updated model “influenced” by the utility vehicle, but not a carbon copy.
The company now says the model, dubbed Grenadier, is swiftly approaching production. Even though it doesn’t share any parts with the vintage Defender 110, it still resembles the 4×4 utility to a point that might lead to continued legal troubles with Jaguar Land Rover.
Hyundai and its sister automaker, Kia Motors, want to hear from you. Well, maybe not you, but someone with electrification expertise and a startup in tow.
As the automakers prepare a series of upcoming electric models, the automakers, joined by their battery supplier, have issued a challenge.
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