Lordstown Motors taps former Icahn exec as CEO to put its EV truck ambitions back on track

Lordstown Motors has hired Daniel A. Ninivaggi, a longtime automotive executive and former head of Carl C. Icahn’s holding company, as CEO and a board member. The appointment follows months of tumult at Lordstown, which became publicly traded via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company.

In June, founder and CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez resigned following a disappointing first-quarter earnings that revealed the company was consuming more capital than expected and unable to reach previously forecasted production numbers for its electric Endurance pickup truck. The resignations were also tied to a board committee investigation that found inaccuracies in some of the company’s disclosures on its truck preorders.

The resignations were just one of several problems, including allegations of fraud and separate investigations by the Department of Justice and the SEC, that has put the two-year-old company at risk of failing. Lordstown did receive a lifeline in August when hedge fund YA II PN purchased 35.1 million shares, or about 19.9% of outstanding shares. The sale provided much-needed capital required to produce its first electric vehicle at the former GM Assembly Plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

Ninivaggi has the background to bring order to Lordstown’s business. He is also bullish on the company’s product, noting in a statement that the demand for full-size electric pickup trucks will be strong and that Lordstown’s Endurance truck has the opportunity to capture a meaningful share of the market.

The former CEO of Icahn Enterprises, has served in a variety of senior leadership positions in the automotive and transportation industries, beginning at Lear Corporation, where he eventually became executive vice president. He was later coo-chairman and co-CEO of automotive components supplier Federal Mogul Holdings Corporation ahead of its sale to Tenneco.

While with Icahn Enterprises, Ninivaggi also oversaw the company’s automotive aftermarket service network and parts distribution businesses. He also has a long history directing public companies, including Motorola Mobility (prior to its sale to Google), Navistar International, Hertz Global Holdings and CVR Energy.

#electric-trucks, #electric-vehicles, #gm, #lordstown-motors, #tc

Lordstown will deliver its Endurance truck to “select early customers” early next year

The beleaguered EV startup Lordstown Motors is on track to begin production of its flagship electric truck Endurance, but only select customers will begin to receive vehicles early next year, executives said during a second quarter earnings call.

Executives struck a cautious tone in the second-quarter earnings call as they tried to assuage shareholder concerns and address the near-term realities of bringing its first vehicle to market without any revenue to offset its costs. Lordstown’s approach, at least this quarter, was to try and reduce operating costs from the previous quarter, helping it offset its increase in capital expenditures.

Lordstown reported a net loss of $108 million, a 13.7% improvement from the first quarter loss of $125 million. Its net losses are more than tenfold higher than the -$7.9 million it reported in the same period last year.

Lordstown cut research and development spending by 17% from the previous quarter to $76.5 million.

Meanwhile, it increased its capital expenditures to $121 million from $53 million in the first quarter. Lordstown also increased its capital expenditure guidance for the year, from $250 million to $275 million to a $375 million to $400 million range, a spike related to its need to prepay for equipment.

The decline in R&D expenses was due to declines in purchases of vehicle components, as many of those were acquired in prior quarters, Lordstown interim CFO Becky Long said during an investor call. However, legal expenses were $9 million higher than last quarter, due to costs related to a special committee and a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation over whether Lordstown exaggerated pre-sales. (The fun doesn’t stop there — the company is also under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.)

Lordstown was thrown a life vest earlier this summer, when investment firm Yorkville Advisors agreed to purchase up to $400 million of Lordstown’s shares. The company is “now exploring a variety of other financing options, including non-dilutive private strategic investments and debt,” interim CEO Angela Strand said during an investor call. The company is also still pursuing a loan with the U.S. Department of Energy, Long said during the call.

Although the company said it was still on track to begin production of the Endurance at the end of September, only “select early customers” will begin to receive vehicles in the first quarter of 2022, followed by commercial deliveries in the second quarter. Strand said this deployment plan is to allow fleet customers time to build out charging infrastructure and to manage supply chain challenges.

One thing that distinguishes the company from some of its competitors is its manufacturing plant — a 6.2 million square foot former General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio. It’s now looking like the company is exploring different ways to turn a profit off this asset. Strand said “serious discussions” were underway with potential partners to use Lordstown’s facility to manufacture their products, suggesting the company is eager to find additional sources of revenue to offset its mounting expenses. “This is a critical strategic pivot for us, a decision that we believe will lead to significant new revenue opportunities for Lordstown,” she said.

“We are exploring multiple partnership constructs,” she added. “That includes contract manufacturing, that includes licensing, in addition to producing our own vehicles,” she added.

The Lordstown executive team has not had a smooth summer. The company announced in June the resignations of both CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez, who were replaced in an interim capacity by Strand and Roof respectively. Lordstown was founded as an offshoot of Burns’ company Workhorse Group — the same company that said it had sold 11.9 million shares, or nearly three-quarters of its stake, since the beginning of July. The company is actively searching for a CEO and CFO, Strand said.

Lordstown was riding high in late 2020, when it announced its SPAC merger with a value of $1.6 billion. Its shares soared to $31.80 apiece at their 52-week highs. They’ve since plummeted to $5.94.

“We still plan to be first to market, particularly in the commercial fleet space,” Strand said.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #lordstown-motors, #transportation

Growth is not enough

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

We were a smaller team this week, with Natasha and Alex together with Grace and Chris to sort through a week that brought together both this quarter’s earnings cycle, and the Q3 IPO rush. So, it was just a little busy!

Before we get to topics, however, a note that we are having a lot of fun recording these live on Twitter Spaces. We’ve found a hacky way to capture local audio and also share the chats live. So, hit us up on Twitter so you can hang out with us. It’s fun – and we may even bring you up on stage to play guest host.

Ok, now, to the Great List of Subjects:

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#alphabet, #ascap, #class, #contentful, #earnings, #electric-vehicles, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fundings-exits, #lordstown-motors, #microsoft, #oova, #peppy, #redwood-materials, #robinhood, #robinhood-ipo, #shopify, #softbank, #squire, #startups, #tesla, #tiger-global

Troubled EV company Lordstown Motors gets $400M lifeline in stock-sale agreement

Five weeks after Lordstown Motors issued a warning that it might not have enough funds to bring its electric pickup truck to market, a hedge fund managed by investment firm Yorkville Advisors has agreed to buy $400 million worth of shares over a three-year period, according to a regulatory filing posted Monday.

The tumult within Lordstown Motors, which has resulted in the resignation of its CEO and CTO, has put the company at risk of failing. This new agreement could allow Lordstown to continue by providing the much-needed capital required to produce its first electric vehicle. If approved by shareholders, hedge fund YA II PN will be able to purchase 35.1 million shares, or about 19.9% of outstanding shares.

The capital provides a lifeline to Lordstown, which has struggled in recent months. The hedge fund, which is able to buy the shares at $7.48 a share, could also benefit financially if the stock price rises.

Lordstown Motors is an offshoot of former CEO Steve Burns’ other company, Workhorse Group, a battery-electric transportation technology company that is also publicly traded. Workhorse holds a 10% stake in Lordstown Motors.

The Ohio automaker was founded in 2019, and within a year reached a deal to merge with special purpose acquisition company DiamondPeak Holdings Corp., with a market value of $1.6 billion. The company had planned to begin production of its Endurance pickup truck starting in the second half of 2021 at the former GM Assembly Plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

Those plans faltered and a series of missteps and allegations of fraud compounded the company’s problems.

In March 2021, Hindenburg Research, the short-seller firm whose report on Nikola Motor led to a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and the resignation of its founder, said it had taken a short position on Lordstown Motors. Hindenburg said at the time that its short position was based on a company that has “no revenue and no sellable product, which we believe has misled investors on both its demand and production capabilities.”

Hindenburg disputed that the company booked 100,000 pre-orders for its electric pickup truck, a stat shared by Lordstown Motors in January. The short seller said that “extensive research reveals that the company’s orders appear largely fictitious and used as a prop to raise capital and confer legitimacy.”

Two months later, Lordstown reported in its first-quarter earnings that production volumes of the Endurance would likely be half — from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000 — due to a lack of funding.

Lordstown execs dug themselves into a deeper hole by attempting to calm investors a day after its CEO and CTO resigned with statements that they had binding orders from customers that would fund limited production of its electric pickup truck through May 2022. The company retracted those statements within days.

The Department of Justice and the SEC are separately investigating the company.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #lordstown-motors, #spac, #transportation

Department of Justice opens investigation into EV startup Lordstown Motors

Lordstown Motors continues to stumble. The beleaguered electric vehicle startup is now being investigated by the Department of Justice, in addition to an ongoing investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The investigation, first broke by the Wall Street Journal on Friday, is still in its early stages, according to unnamed sources. It is being conducted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.

The probe is just the latest series of woes for the startup, which recently said it had to cut production volumes for its debut electric pickup, Endurance, by half – from around 2,200 vehicles to 1,000. Just a few weeks after it made that announcement, there followed news of a corporate shakeup: the resignation of founding CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez. Burns started the company as an offshoot of his previous startup, Workhorse Group.

Lordstown had a strong start, with investments from General Motors that helped it purchase a 6.2 million square-foot factory from the leading automaker in late 2019. Lordstown made positive headlines last August, when it announced it would go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The deal injected the EV startup with around $675 million in gross proceeds and skyrocketed its market value to $1.6 billion. Less than a year later, Lordstown informed the SEC that it does not have sufficient capital to manufacture Endurance.

Then, in March, the short-seller firm Hindenburg Research released a report disputing the company’s claims that it had booked 100,000 pre-orders for the electric pickup. It wrote that “extensive research reveals that the company’s orders appear largely fictitious and used as a prop to raise capital and confer legitimacy.” The SEC opened its investigation in the wake of these accusations.

The WSJ story is unclear on the scope of the inquiry and Lordstown Motors did not respond to a request for comment by press time. TechCrunch will update the story if it responds.

#automotive, #department-of-justice, #drama, #investigations, #lordstown-motors, #startups, #steve-burns, #tc, #transportation

The Station: Waymo nabs more capital, Cruise taps a $5B credit line and hints about Argo’s future

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hello and welcome back to The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and packages move (today and in the future) from Point A to Point B.

A few Extra Crunch items highlight before we jump into things. This week, we published an interview with Refraction AI co-founder and CTO Matthew Johnson-Roberson as part of an ongoing series focused on transportation founders. TechCrunch has been following autonomous delivery startup since it came out of stealth on our stage in 2019. Refraction, which built its vehicle to travel in bike lanes up to 15 miles per hour, has been testing in AnnArbor, Michigan. Now, it’s expanding to Austin. Our interview with Johnson-Roberson reveals the premise behind the company, what prompted him to step down as CEO and some of the challenges in the industry. The twist with this series? We plan to check in on every founder we interview a year after their Q&A is published.

Later this month, we’ll feature an interview with Candice Xie, the CEO and co-founder of Veo.

Finally, we have a fresh round of recaps from the TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 event held June 9. Each recap provides a rundown of the conversation as well as some key quotes from our panelists. The recaps also include the video of the session.

Email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Deal of the week

money the station

Taking autonomous vehicle technology from the “lab,” — ok, from the closed track — to commercial scale is a pricey endeavor. Not every AV developer has success raising money or access to debt. Waymo does.

The company has raised another $2.5 billion in external funding about 15 months after its first external round brought in $2.25 billion. (That round was later expanded by $700 million a few months later.) The round appears to be mostly existing investors including parent company Alphabet, Andreessen Horowitz, AutoNation, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Magna International, Mubadala Investment Company, Perry Creek Capital, Silver Lake, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Temasek. Tiger Global was the investor newcomer.

The funding announcement comes a few months after CEO John Krafcik left the company after five years in the position. The CEO position is now being held jointly by Tekedra Mawakana, former COO, and Dmitri Dolgov, who joined the original self-driving project at Google and was CTO.

More than $2 billion is a hefty haul. Although numerous folks,  some of whom are in the financial sector, reached out to me to share reactions of surprise that it wasn’t larger. I’m more interested in how that money is being put to work. Waymo has now brought in nearly $6 billion in outside investment since March 2020.

Other deals that my attention …

Bringg, a software developer focused on helping retailers with last-mile logistics, raised $100 million in a Series E round of funding led by Insight Partners. Salesforce Ventures, Viola Growth, Next 47, Pereg Ventures, Harlap, GLP and Cambridge Capital — all previous backers — also invested. Bringg CEO Guy Bloch told TechCrunch that the funding will be used both to continue growing Bringg’s customer base, but also the company’s ca

CAI International, the tansportation finance and logistics company,  agreed to a $1.1 billion takeover by Mitsubishi HC Capital. This is an all-stock deal that is comprised of $104 million worth of preferred stock and $986 million of common stock equity value, Reuters reported.

Cambridge Mobile Telematics, a mobile telematics and analytics, has acquired TrueMotion. The company didn’t disclose the terms. CMT will now provide telematics services to 21 out of the 25 largest auto insurers in the United States, and across more than 20 countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa, Japan and Australia.

Cruise, the self-driving subsidiary of GM, secured a $5 billion line of credit from the automaker’s financial arm to pay for hundreds of purpose-built electric and autonomous Origin vehicles as they start to roll off the assembly line. The access to the credit provided by GM Financial will push Cruise’s “total war chest” to more than $10 billion as it prepares for commercialization, CEO Dan Ammann wrote in a blog post. In short: the credit will be used to buy these Cruise Origins from GM, which is assembling the autonomous vehicles at its renamed and renovated Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. The factory is now called Factory ZERO.

Electriphi, a battery management and fleet monitoring software startup based in San Francisco, was acquired by Ford. The acquisition, the terms of which neither party would disclose, aims to round out Ford’s future EV commercial business. The automaker already has two electric commercial vehicles in pipeline, the  E-transit cargo and F-150 Lighting Pro pickup truck. Ford is betting that the software developed by the three-year-old San Francisco startup will help it capture more than $1 billion in revenue just from charging by 2030.

Gopuff, the on-demand goods, food and alcohol delivery service, acquired fleet management platform rideOS for $115 million, sources familiar with the deal told TechCrunch. This acquisition comes just a few months after the Philadelphia-based startup announced a $1.15 billion funding round at a $8.9 billion valuation, up from $3.9 billion in October. Last fall, the company also raised $380 million and bought BevMo, a beverage retailer. Gopuff did not share its updated valuation with this new acquisition.

KeepTruckin, a hardware and software developer that helps trucking fleets manage vehicle, cargo and driver safety, raised $190 million in a Series E funding round, which puts the company’s valuation at over $2 billion, according to CEO Shoaib Makani. G2 Venture Partners, which just raised a $500 million fund to help modernize existing industries, participated in the round, alongside existing backers Greenoaks Capital, Index Ventures, IVP and Scale Venture Partners and funds managed by BlackRock.

Kodiak Robotics, the Silicon Valley-based startup developing autonomous trucks, has a new investor. Tire-making giant Bridgestone has taken a minority stake in the AV startup as part of a broader partnership to test and develop smart tire technology. While the terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, Kodiak Robotics co-founder and CEO Don Burnette told TechCrunch that this is a direct financial investment. Bridgestone CTO Nizar Trigui has also joined the Kodiak board as an observer. The two companies also formed a strategic partnership focused on advancing Bridgestone’s tire tech and fleet management system.

MachineMetrics, a data startup focused on manufacturing, raised $20 million in Series B round led by industrial automation and robotics Teradyne. Ridgeline Ventures also participated along with existing investors Tola Capital and Hyperplane.

Mister Car Wash, a car wash company owned by Leonard Green & Partners and based in my hometown, has set the terms for its initial public offering. The company said in a regulatory filing that it will issue 37.5 million with the expectation of a per share price between $15 and $17.

Motorway, a U.K. startup that allows professional car dealers to bid in an auction for privately owned cars for sale, raised £48 million ($67.7 million) in a Series B round led by Index Ventures, along with new investors BMW iVentures and Unbound. Existing investors Latitude and Marchmont Ventures also participated. The funding will be used to extend its platform and grow the current 160-strong team.

PayCargo, the Freight payment platform company, raised $125 million in a Series B round led by Insight Partners.

Solid Power, a solid-state battery developer backed by Ford and BMW, locked in a deal to merge with special purpose acquisition company Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp III, at a post-deal implied market valuation of $1.2 billion. The transaction is expected to generate around $600 million in cash, including a $165 million private investment in public equity (PIPE) transaction from investors Koch Strategic Platforms, Riverstone Energy Limited, Neuberger Berman and Van Eck Associates Corporation.

Vertical Aerospace is yet another electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft startup to take the SPAC path to the public markets. The UK-based eVTOL developer, which is backed by American Airlines, Avolon, Honeywell, Rolls-Royce and Microsoft’s M12, has agreed to merge with special purposed acquisition company Broadstone Acquisition Corp., at an implied $2.2 billion valuation.

Woven Capital made an undisclosed investment in Ridecell, a platform powering digital transformations and IoT automation for fleet-driven businesses. Woven Capital is an $800 million global investment fund that supports innovative, growth-stage companies in mobility, automation, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, connectivity, and smart cities. It is the investment arm of the Woven Planet Group, a Toyota subsidiary which is dedicated to building the safest mobility in the world. Along with the investment, Ridecell and the Woven Planet Group will explore collaborative opportunities in mobility service operations.

Hints at Argo’s future

the station autonomous vehicles1

You might have noticed under “deal of the week” that Ford acquired a fleet management and charging monitor software company called Electriphi. When the deal was announced, I found myself wondering aloud if the software would be used by the company for its eventual commercial fleet of robotaxis? And that got me thinking about Argo AI, the startup developing the self-driving system for backers Ford and VW.

I was pointed to some comments made Ford CEO Jim Farley, which suggests that maybe Argo will play a larger role in commercial operations than expected. Farley was asked during the Deutsche Bank’s Global Auto Industry Conference what he thought about the convergence between what Argo will be offering and I guess Ford in terms of business model?

Farley’s response: “Well, that’s a good question. I think Argo has proven to be very adaptive business, not just the technology. My personal opinion is that I think they deserve the opportunity to be a one-stop shop company and that they will take on more of the go-to-market responsibilities for our AV effort.”

Policy corner


Welcome to Policy Corner. It’s a (relatively) short one this week folks. As a reminder, if there’s any policy or regulatory news (or tips!) that you think merits inclusion in the Corner, send me an email at aria.techcrunch@gmail.com.

Autonomous vehicle developers Nuro and Cruise, along with three other entities, have formed a new coalition to support a California bill that would require AVs to be zero emission by 2030. TechCrunch’s Rebecca Bellan was the first to cover the bill back in March. Notably absent from this coalition are Argo AI, which has Ford and VW has backers and customers, as well several other legacy automakers. John Davis, chief engineer at Ford Autonomous Vehicles, told Bellan back in March that the computing demands of an AV platform means that it may make more sense to transition first to a hybrid model before going full EV.

For Cruise’s part, it makes sense that they’d want to ratchet up their support of the bill, especially after news broke that earlier this week they’d taken out a $5 billion line of credit to ramp up production of their electric Cruise Origin AV.

EV proponents are fired up about the possibility of taxing EVs as one way to fund the massive infrastructure investments that are currently being debated in Washington. The proposal is being mulled by legislators as they continue to negotiate the infrastructure package. Joe Britton, the Executive Director of the Zero Emission Transportation Association, called the tax proposal “the brainchild of those who want to unfairly punish EV drivers and hinder clean vehicle deployment.”

It seems that an EV tax could be the sacrificial lamb that some legislators are looking for, but it is important to note — as ZETA does — that battery electric vehicles are still only around 1% of the cars on the road.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable reads and other tidbits

the station electric vehicles1

Here are a few more final items to wrap up The Station.

Autonomous vehicles

Pony.ai, the robotaxi startup that operates in China and the United States, has started testing driverless vehicles on public roads in California ahead of plans to launch a commercial service there in 2022. The company said the driverless vehicle testing, which means the autonomous vehicles operate without human safety drivers behind the wheel, is happening daily on public roads in Fremont and Milpitas, California. Pony.ai is also testing its driverless vehicles in Guangzhou, China. Pony.ai said it also plans to resume a rideshare service to the public in Irvine this summer using AVs with a human safety driver. Its goal is to roll out the fully driverless service to the public in 2022.

EVs and hydrogen

Canoo, the electric vehicle startup that recently became a publicly traded company through a merger with a SPAC, made a number of announcements during its investor day event. First on the list was news that the company plans to build a factory in Oklahoma that will employ up to 2,000 workers. The factory will be located on a 400-acre site in the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, Oklahoma about 45 minutes from Tulsa. The facility, which the company describes as a “mega microfactory” will include a paint shop, body shop and general assembly plant and is expected to open in 2023.

Canoo also laid out its plans for automated driving, which I haven’t heard much about until now. The details were thin, but Canoo is planning to have its vehicles equipped with “Level 2” advanced driver assistance system, which means two primary functions — like adaptive cruise and lane keeping — are automated and still have a human driver in the loop at all times. From there, it seems the company is taking the Tesla approach and believes it can reach Level 4 autonomy through software improvements. To be clearm, Tesla is nowhere near Level 4 autonomy, which means the vehicle ccan handle all driving without the driver in the loop in certain geographic areas or conditiions. Here is the Canoo CTO’s comments about this.

We’ve got an ADAS system ready for launch at Level 2, with all of the basic features, but we’ve got an OTA system — over the air upgradability — so as we continue to refine and mature and validate additional features in ADAS, we’re going to be able to upgrade over time and with our ADAS compute platform, along with the sensor suite we believe will ultimately get us to around Level 4.

Finally, the company also detailed some of the features that may be on its app, including a one-stop shop functionality that customers could use for their Canoo vehicles — and all their other cars, as well. This unusual approach to its branded vehicle app could potentially pay off big-time for Canoo in terms of user data and revenue via sales on services like tire replacements and insurance.

Lordstown Motors is digging itself deeper into a hole it seems. The company’s CEO and CFO resigned following a less than stellar first quarter results in May, including news that production volumes would likely be half — from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000 — should the company not identify more funding. But wait. What is this?

The following day, hope was restored when interim CEO Angela Strand and President Rich Schmidt made a series of statements  at an Automotive Press Association event that drove up shares in the company, including that it has enough “binding orders” from customers to fund limited production of its electric pickup truck through May 2022. Ah but hold tight because the next day Lordstown issued a regulatory filing that reversed those claims.

It appears those “binding orders” were more like agreements to maybe lease or buy.

Jaguar Land Rover is developing a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle based on the new Defender SUV, and plans to begin testing the prototype next year. The prototype program, known as Project Zeus, is part of JLR’s larger aim to only produce zero-tailpipe emissions vehicles by 2036. JLR has also made a commitment to have zero carbon emissions across its supply chain, products and operations by 2039. The automaker has also tapped AVL, Delta Motorsport, Marelli Automotive Systems and the U.K. Battery Industrialization Center to help develop the prototype.

Nuro, the autonomous delivery startup, is expanding into parcel logistics through a partnership with FedEx. The multiyear, multiphased strategic partnership aims to test and ultimately deploy Nuro’s next-generation autonomous delivery vehicle within FedEx operations. This bot will follow Nuro’s more recent R2 bot. The deal with FedEx marks its first foray into parcels logistics. The pilot program has already started in Houston. This multiyear commitment will allow Nuro to bring its technology to more people in new ways, and eventually reach large-scale deployment, according to Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships.

Polestar, Volvo Car Group’s standalone electric performance brand, will manufacture its first all-electric SUV in the United States. The automaker said the Polestar 3 will be assembled at a plant shared with Volvo Cars at a factory in Ridgeville, South Carolina. The Polestar 3 follows the all-electric Polestar 2 sedan and the hybrid grand tourer Polestar 1. Production of Polestar 3 is expected to begin globally in 2022.

In-car tech

Amazon Web Services entered into an agreement with Ferrari to become their official cloud provider, a deal that aims to help the luxury automaker’s Scuderia Ferrari Formula One racing team launch a digital fan engagement platform via its mobile app.

Android Auto has some new updates including personalizing the launcher screen directly from a user’s smartphone and manually setting dark mode. Browsing content is also supposed to be easier with new tabs in media apps, a “back to top” option and an A to Z button in the scroll bar.  New app experiences have also been added to help with EV charging, parking and navigation apps are now available to use in Android Auto. Users will also be able to read and send new messages directly from apps like WhatsApp or Messages — now available globally. These Android Auto features are available on phones running Android 6.0 or above, and when connected to your compatible car.

Other transportation stuff

Financial Times digs into the sticky issue of Chinese surveillance technology that is used in ‘smart cities’ all over the world.

GM upped the amount it says it will spend on electric and autonomous vehicle investments to $35 billion through 2025 — an $8 billion increase from its previous plan announced in November 2020.

Lux Research released a study showing that in 2020 electric vehicles sales, meaning battery and plug-ins, increased 37% compared to 2019. The sales growth was led by 140% growth in Europe as the BEV market took off in several countries. The report noted that while Tesla remains the most popular BEV maker, but its choice of cells from LG Energy Solution in China means Panasonic lost the market share crown it had held since 2013.

Redwood Materials, the battery recycling startup founded by former Tesla CTO JB Straubel, has purchased 100 acres of land near the Gigafactory that Panasonic operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada as part of an expansion plan that aligns with the Biden Administration’s drive to increase adoption of electric vehicles and boost domestic battery recycling and supply chain efforts. The company said its existing 150,000-square-foot facility in Carson City, Nevada will also nearly triple in size. Redwood is adding another 400,000 square feet onto the Carson City recycling facility, which is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

#amazon, #argo-ai, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #canoo, #cruise, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #gm, #lordstown-motors, #nuro, #tesla, #transportation, #vw, #waymo

Lordstown Motors reverses claims about “binding orders” for electric pickup truck

Lordstown Motors does not have binding orders from customers for its electric Endurance pickup truck — a reversal from claims made earlier this week by company executives in an effort to restore confidence in the troubled company, according to a regulatory filing released Thursday.

Lordstown Motors interim CEO Angela Strand and President Rich Schmidt made a series of statements Tuesday at an Automotive Press Association event that drove up shares in the company, including that it has enough “binding orders” from customers to fund limited production of its electric pickup truck through May 2022. Those comments came just a day after an executive shakeup that included the resignation of the company’s CEO and CFO.

It appears those “binding orders” were more like agreements to maybe lease or buy, according to a document Lordstown filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing has caused shares of Lordstown to fall more than 4%.

The document reads:

To clarify recent remarks by company executives at the Automotive Press Association online media event on June 15, although these vehicle purchase agreements provide us with a significant indicator of demand for the Endurance, these agreements do not represent binding purchase orders or other firm purchase commitments. As previously disclosed in our Form 10-K/A for the year ended December 31, 2020, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 8, 2021, to date, we have engaged in limited marketing activities and we have no binding purchase orders or commitments from customers.

Lordstown notes in the SEC filing that an important aspect of its sales and marketing strategy involves pursuing relationships with specialty upfitting and fleet management companies. For instance, in March 2021 Lordstown announced an agreement with ARI, a fleet management affiliate of Holman Enterprises. Under the agreement, ARI “would use reasonable efforts to facilitate orders from its leasing clients for the Endurance over a three-year time period on the terms set forth in the agreement.”

Lordstown has also entered into vehicle purchase agreements with additional specialty upfitting and fleet management companies as a component of that strategy, the company explained. This might sound like a binding order, but it’s not,  as the following language in the SEC doc makes more clear.

“These vehicle purchase agreements generally include a projected buyer order schedule over the 3- to 5-year life of the agreement, and may be terminated by either party at will on 30 days’ notice,” the filing from Lordstown reads. “They do not commit the counterparties to purchase vehicles, but we believe that they provide us with a significant indicator of demand for the Endurance.”

The reversal from Lordstown is just the latest in a string of issues at the newly public company. Lordstown Motors is an offshoot of the now former CEO Steve Burns’ other company, Workhorse Group, a battery-electric transportation technology company that is also publicly traded. Workhorse holds a 10% stake in Lordstown Motors. Lordstown Motors went public after merging with special-purpose acquisition company DiamondPeak Holdings Corp.

In March, Hindenburg Research, the short-seller firm whose report on Nikola Motor led to an SEC investigation and the resignation of its founder, said it had taken a short position on Lordstown Motors, causing shares to plummet 21%. Hindenburg said at the time that its short position was based on a company has “no revenue and no sellable product, which we believe has misled investors on both its demand and production capabilities.”

Hindenburg disputes that the company has booked 100,000 pre-orders for its electric pickup truck, a stat shared by Lordstown Motors in January. The short seller says that “extensive research reveals that the company’s orders appear largely fictitious and used as a prop to raise capital and confer legitimacy.” The firm goes further and alleges that Lordstown founder and CEO Steve Burns paid consultants for every truck pre-order as early as 2016 while he was leading Workhorse.

Two months later, Lordstown reported in its first-quarter earnings that production volumes of the Endurance would likely be half — from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000 — due to a lack of funding. The statements made by Lordstown execs Tuesday appeared to be an attempt, which backfired, to assuage investors.


#automotive, #electric-pickup-truck, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #lordstown-motors, #spac, #transportation

Lordstown Motors now says that it has no binding orders for EV truck

A silver Lordstown Endurance truck on stage with a big American flag

Enlarge / In June 2020, Lordstown held an hour-long election rally for the Trump campaign disguised as an event to unveil the Endurance electric pickup truck. (credit: Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, we wrote about how Lordstown Motors stated that the company’s Endurance electric pickup truck would enter limited production later this year. The statements were made at a press conference on Tuesday, where Lordstown President Rich Schmidt told journalists that the company had “binding orders” that would fund production until May 2022.

This happened just days after the company issued a going concern warning and a day after Lordstown then parted company with its CEO and CFO. But on Thursday morning, Lordstown sent the US Securities and Exchange Commission a new Form 8-K, revealing that, actually, those binding orders are nothing of the sort.

In the 8-K, Lordstown explains that since March 2021, it has been working with a company called ARI Global Fleet Management, which is owned by the Holman dealership group. Fleet management companies sometimes lease vehicles to their customers, and Lordstown and ARI have been working to “co-market and co-develop business opportunities with our respective customers” with the hope that ARI would persuade some of its leasing clients to order the Endurance EV pickup truck.

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#cars, #electric-pickup-truck, #lordstown-endurance, #lordstown-motors, #sec, #securities-and-exchange-commission

Lordstown Motors’ new boss says the company has cash through May 2022

Lordstown Motors' factory in Lordstown, Ohio.

Enlarge / Lordstown Motors’ factory in Lordstown, Ohio.

It’s been a tough time recently for Lordstown Motors. The Ohio-based electric truck startup was accused of misleading investors about the extent of its order books, which led to an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission; this in turn led the company to issue a “going concern” warning, followed by the departure of its CEO and CFO.

But on Tuesday, a day after the executive resignations, the company stated that limited production of its Endurance work truck will begin later this year. Lordstown’s president Rich Schmidt told journalists at a press event that there were enough “binding orders” to fund this limited production until May 2022, according to Techcrunch.

Schmidt said that Lordstown has more than $400 million in the bank, but it will need extra investment if it is to produce more than 20,000 EVs or continue operations beyond next May. The company raised $675 million in October 2020 after merging with a special-purpose acquisition company.

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#cars, #electric-pickup-truck, #electric-vehicle, #lordstown-motors, #spac

Lordstown Motors execs cite binding orders to restore confidence a day after CEO, CFO resignations

Lordstown Motors has enough ‘binding orders’ from customers to fund limited production of its electric pickup truck through May 2022, executives at the company said Tuesday just a a day after an executive shakeup that included the resignation of the company’s CEO and CFO.

Reaching that goal will come at a cost. The company is putting all of its resources towards the Endurance pickup truck, which means other projects including an electric recreational van has been put on hold, according to comments made by Lordstown interim CEO Angela Strand and President Rich Schmidt during an Automotive Press event.

“We’re just focused currently on the Endurance truck,” Schmidt said at the event, according to a report by CNBC. “That’s our next goal for the next three months is to make sure we hit our production targets and stay within our budgets and drive forward to getting the vehicles ready for the market.”

What was meant to be the “first mass produced all-electric RV” should have been revealed this month, but with its money woes, Lordstown has pushed back the reveal and removed mention of the van from its amended annual filing — a change first noted earlier this month by the WSJ.

Investors responded to the company’s “we have enough capital” and “binding order” comments and put less weight on the ‘we’re punting on the electric van’ part. Shares of Lordstown Motors 11.34% on the news to close at $10.31.

Lordstown’s Q1 report filed with the SEC last week showed a startling lack of capital that would have gotten in the way of manufacturing and delivering the EV pickup. In the filing, the company warned investors that it had “substantial doubt regarding [its] ability to continue” in the next year. The automaker has faced scrutiny in the past after investment research firm Hindenburg Research said the company had misled consumers and investors about Endurance’s pre-orders.

But Tuesday is a “new day” for the automaker-gone-SPAC, says Strand. Schmidt revealed the company has enough orders for limited production of the Endurance for 2021 and 2022, calling those orders “firm” and “binding.” The work truck will start at $55,000, he said. To compare, the Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, another truck aimed at commercial customers, will start below $40,000.

Schmidt said the company has $400 million in the bank, but would need more to increase its ability to build more than 20,000 vehicles per year. Lordstown is actively seeking additional capital from GM, which owns a small stake in the startup, and other early investors. In a statement to Reuters, GM said, “we are comfortable with our current relationship with LMC but we are willing to listen to proposals that make sense for both parties.”


#lordstown-motors, #transportation

Lordstown Motors CEO and CFO resign amidst production woes

Beleaguered electric vehicle startup Lordstown Motors’ stock shares have taken another hit after the company said Monday that CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez have resigned, just a few weeks after Burns was reassuring investors of the company’s bright future.

Lordstown Motors’ Lead Independent Director Angela Strand was appointed executive chairwoman to oversee the transition until a permanent CEO is found. Becky Roof will service as Interim CFO. Roof has acted as interim CFO at a number of other companies, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Eastman Kodak.

The company, which was founded as an offshoot of former CEO Burns’ other company, Workhorse Group, announced less than stellar first quarter results in May, including news that production volumes would likely be half – from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000 – should the company not identify more funding.

The EV startup is one of a growing suite of companies in the transportation space that have gone public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The deal, announced last August, gave Lordstown around $675 million in gross proceeds and a market value of $1.6 billion.

Yet, less than a year after the deal was announced, Lordstown told the SEC in a filing that it does not have enough capital to manufacture and deliver the electric pickup, dubbed – note the irony – ‘Endurance.’ “The Company believes that its current level of cash and cash equivalents are not sufficient to fund commercial scale production and the launch of sale of such vehicles,” the filing said. “These conditions raise substantial doubt regarding our ability to continue as a going concern for a period of at least one year from the date of issuance of these unaudited condensed consolidated financial statements.”

While Burns and Rodriguez are the most prominent corporate figures in the shakeup, Lordstown also announced other changes to its executive team Monday. Jane Ritson-Parsons, who was acting as Lordstown Motors interim chief brand officer, was promoted to Chief Operating Officer; and former head of investor relations Carter Driscoll was promoted to Vice President, Corporate Development, Capital Markets and Investor Relations.

Lordstown on Monday also released the results of a report conducted by a special internal committee accusations that the company was faking preorders of its debut electric pickup, in a report by short seller firm Hindenburg Research. Lordstowns’ independent inquiry is separate to an ongoing investigation from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over the allegations.

While the report is “is, in significant respects, false and misleading,” the committee said that the investigation did identify some inaccuracies regarding some statements about the pre-orders. In particular, some entities that made a large number of pre-orders made commitments that were not firm enough to be included in the pre-order disclosures. Overall, the special committees’ findings overwhelmingly reject Hindenburgs’ accusations against the company.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #ev-startups, #lordstown-motors, #tc, #transportation

Electric work truck startup Lordstown Motors just lost its CEO and CFO

Lordstown Motors says it will begin limited production of the Endurance EV truck later in 2021.

Enlarge / Lordstown Motors says it will begin limited production of the Endurance EV truck later in 2021. (credit: Lordstown Motors)

Life just isn’t getting any easier for Lordstown Motors. Last week, the startup issued a “going concern” warning, telling investors that it might not be able to start production of its electric work truck without a fresh infusion of cash. We saw the consequences on Monday morning, as the company announced that CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez have resigned. Angela Strand has been appointed as executive chairwoman and will helm Lordstown until a new CEO is appointed, with Becky Roof serving as Interim CFO.

Lordstown Motors emerged from another beleaguered startup called Workhorse, which planned to produce a plug-in hybrid work truck made from carbon fiber. But in 2018, the stock market was much less willing to hand out gigantic blank checks to electric vehicle startups, and that hybrid truck was shelved. Workhorse’s then-CEO Steve Burns departed the company.

On his way out, Burns licensed some of Workhorse’s technology (involving hub-mounted motors for each wheel), which formed the basis for Lordstown Motors. Lordstown would make a battery EV pickup instead of a plug-in hybrid truck, and it would do so in a former General Motors factory in Lordstown, Ohio (giving the new startup its name).

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#cars, #electric-pickup-truck, #electric-truck, #ev-truck, #lordstown-motors, #pickup-truck, #spac

Lordstown Motors warns its electric vehicle business may fail

a rendering of the Lordstown Motors Endurance

Enlarge / This is a rendering of the Lordstown Motors Endurance, which may never be built. (credit: Lordstown Motors)

Electric vehicle startup Lordstown Motors said Tuesday it does not have enough money to start commercial production and runs the risk of failing as a business, sending its stock tumbling.

The company on Tuesday amended its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission to say in one year it may no longer function as “a going concern.”

The company said that with its current cash and cash equivalents of $587 million as of the end of the first quarter, it did not have enough funding to launch the Endurance, an electric pickup truck geared toward commercial operators.

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#bevs, #cars, #electric-trucks, #lordstown-endurance, #lordstown-motors

Don’t trust that SPAC deck

The continuing saga of Lordstown Motor’s struggles as a public company took a new turn today as the electric truck manufacturer made yet more news. Bad news.

Shares of Lordstown are down sharply today after the company reported in an SEC filing that it does not have enough capital to build and launch its electric truck. Here’s the official verbiage (formatting, bolding: TechCrunch):

Since inception, the Company has been developing its flagship vehicle, the Endurance, an electric full-size pickup truck. The Company’s ability to continue as a going concern is dependent on its ability to complete the development of its electric vehicles, obtain regulatory approval, begin commercial scale production and launch the sale of such vehicles.

The Company believes that its current level of cash and cash equivalents are not sufficient to fund commercial scale production and the launch of sale of such vehicles. These conditions raise substantial doubt regarding our ability to continue as a going concern for a period of at least one year from the date of issuance of these unaudited condensed consolidated financial statements.

Now, companies that are trying to invent the future are more risky than, say, established banking concerns that are generating stable GAAP net income. I’m sure that SpaceX looked dicey at times when it was busy crashing rockets on its way to learning how to land them on drone ships.

But in the case of Lordstown’s admission that it cannot “fund commercial scale production and the launch of sale” of its Endurance pickup are fucking galling.

Why? Because when the company pitched its SPAC-led combination and public debut, it was pretty freaking confident that it would have enough cash to do so.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s an excerpt from Lordstown’s investor deck:

You will note in the “Capital Structure” section that the company claimed that it would not need more funding to go to market.

Now Lordstown is pretty sure it’s going to need more money. If it’s putting the possible need in a filing, it means it.

Here’s what the company may do to solve its problems (formatting, bolding: TechCrunch):

To alleviate these conditions, management is currently evaluating various funding alternatives and may seek to raise additional funds through the issuance of equity, mezzanine or debt securities, through arrangements with strategic partners or through obtaining credit from government or financial institutions.

As we seek additional sources of financing, there can be no assurance that such financing would be available to us on favorable terms or at all. Our ability to obtain additional financing in the debt and equity capital markets is subject to several factors, including market and economic conditions, our performance and investor sentiment with respect to us and our industry.

In other words, the company is going to have to lever itself using debt, or dilute existing shareholders through the sale of equity, and Lordstown can’t promise that it will be able to do either “on favorable terms or at all.”

What we’re seeing here is the difference between SEC filings, which are no-bullshit zones, and SPAC decks, which are business propaganda. Shares of Lordstown fell more than 16% during regular trading, and another 6.9% in after-hours trading, as of the time of writing.

This mess from the company that put out this diagram in its investor deck:

In separate news, TechCrunch received an invite to a media availability to visit Lordstown’s operations in May, which included a note that the company “look[s] forward to opening [its] doors and showing you the latest progress from Lordstown Motors as [it] prepare[s] for the beginning of production in late September.” In a new missive sent today concerning the same event, the production timeline was not present.

So, yeah, maybe don’t trust SPAC decks much, if at all.

#fundings-exits, #lol, #lordstown-motors, #spac, #startups, #tc

The SPAC trash ticker is counting down

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week had the whole crew aboard to record: Grace and Chris making us sound good, Danny to provide levity, Natasha to actually recall facts, and Alex to divert us from staying on topic. It’s teamwork, people – and our transitions are proof of it.

And it’s good that we had everyone around the virtual table as there was quite a lot to get through:

  • Team felt all kinds of ways about the Amazon-MGM deal. Some of us are more positive about than the rest, but what gists out from the transaction is that for Amazon, the purchase price is modest and the company is famously playing a supposedly long-game. Let’s see how James Bond fits into it. Alex receives four points for not bringing up F1 thanks to the Bond-Aston Martin connection.
  • Turning to the SPAC game, we chatted through the recent Lordstown Motors earnings results, and what we can parse from them regarding blank-check companies, promises, and reality.
  • After launching last June with just $2 million, Collab Capital has closed its debut fund at its target goal: $50 million. The Black-led firm invests exclusively in Black-led startups, and got checks from Apple, PayPal, and Mailchimp to name a few. We talk about this feat, and note a few other Black-led venture capital firms making waves in the industry lately.
  • We Resolved our transition puns and eventually spoke about the Affirm spin-out, which raised $60 million in a funding round for BNPL for businesses. There’s bigger questions there around the accessibility and point of BNPL, and if its really re-inventing the wheel or just repackaging it with simpler UX.
  • Next up, we got into a can of worms about the future of meetings thanks to Rewatch, which raised a $20 million Series A this week led by Andreessen Horowitz. The startup helps other startups create internal, private Youtubes to archive their meetings and any video-based comms. We could only spend a second on this, so if you want our longer thoughts in the form of text, check out our 3 views on the topic on Extra Crunch! (Discount Code: Equity)
  • From there we had Interactio and Fireflies.ai, two more startups that are tackling the complexities of meetings in the COVID-19 era, and whatever comes next. Both recently raised new funding, and Alex brought up Kudo to add one more upstart to the mix.
  • Noom, a weight loss platform, bulked up with $540 million in funding after nearly doubling its revenue from 2019 to 2020. The pandemic has made many people gain weight, but we chew into why Noom’s moment might be right now after a decade in the works.

Thanks for hanging out this week, Equity is back on Tuesday with our usual weekly kickoff, thanks to the American holiday on Monday. Chat then, unless you want to follow us on Twitter and get a first-look at all of Chris’ meme work. 

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#a16z, #affirm, #amazon, #bnpl, #collab-capital, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fireflies-ai, #fundings-exits, #interactio, #kudo, #lordstown-motors, #mgm, #noom, #resolve, #rewatch, #spac, #startups, #zoom

Extra Crunch roundup: Lordstown Motors’ woes, how co-CEOs work, Brian Chesky interview

Lordstown Motors released its Q1 earnings yesterday, and the electric vehicle manufacturer is facing a few challenges.

Expenses were higher than expected, it plans to slash production by about 50%, and the company reported zero revenue and a net loss of $125 million. Oh, it also needs more capital.

“But there’s more to the Lordstown mess than merely a single bad quarter,” writes Alex Wilhelm. “Lordstown’s earnings mess and the resulting dissonance with its own predictions are notable on their own, but they also point to what could be shifting sentiment regarding SPAC combinations.”

In light of the company’s lackluster earnings report (and a pending SEC investigation), Alex unpacks the company’s Q1, “but don’t think that we’re only singling out one company; others fit the bill, and more will in time.”

May 27 Clubhouse chat: How to ensure data quality in the era of Big Data

TC unwind chat with Ron Miller and Patrik Liu Tran

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Join TechCrunch reporter Ron Miller and Patrik Liu Tran, co-founder and CEO of automated real-time data validation and quality monitoring platform Validio, on Thursday, May 27 at 9 a.m. PDT/noon EDT for a Clubhouse chat about ensuring data quality in the era of Big Data.

The world produces 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily, but modern data infrastructure still lacks solutions for monitoring data quality and data validation.

Among other topics, they’ll discuss the build versus buy debate, how to better understand data failures, and why traditional methods for identifying data failures are no longer operational.

Click here to join the conversation.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch; have a great week!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch

Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members.
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.

How Expensify shed Silicon Valley arrogance to realize its global ambitions

The Expensify origin story

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

Expensify may be the most ambitious software company ever to mostly abandon the Bay Area as the center of its operations.

The startup’s history is tied to places representative of San Francisco: The founding team worked out of Peet’s Coffee on Mission Street for a few months, then crashed at a penthouse lounge near the 4th and King Caltrain station, followed by a tiny office and then a slightly bigger one in the Flatiron building near Market Street.

Thirteen years later, Expensify still has an office a few blocks away on Kearny Street, but it’s no longer a San Francisco company or even a Silicon Valley firm. The company is truly global with employees across the world — and it did that before COVID-19 made remote working cool.

It makes sense that a company founded by internet pirates would let its workforce live anywhere they please and however they want to. Yet, how does it manage to make it all work well enough to reach $100 million in annual revenue with just a tad more than 100 employees?

As I described in Part 2 of this EC-1, that staffing efficiency is partly due to its culture and who it hires. It’s also because it has attracted top talent from across the world by giving them benefits like the option to work remotely all year as well as paying SF-level salaries even to those not based in the tech hub. It’s also got annual fully paid month-long “workcations” for every employee, their partner and kids.

Brian Chesky describes a faster, nimbler post-pandemic Airbnb

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Managing Editor Jordan Crook interviewed Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky to discuss the future of travel and what it was like leading the world’s biggest hospitality startup during a global pandemic.

“Our business initially dropped 80% in eight weeks. I say it’s like driving a car. You can’t go 80 miles an hour, slam on the brakes, and expect nothing really bad to happen.

Now imagine you’re going 80 miles an hour, slam on the brakes, then rebuild the car kind of while still moving, and then try to accelerate into an IPO, all on Zoom.”

Embedded finance will help fill the life insurance coverage gap

Image of a keyboard with one key featuring a family covered by an umbrella to represent life insurance.

Image Credits: alexsl (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

There’s latent demand for life insurance currently unaddressed by much of the financial services industry, and embedded finance can be the solution.

It’s imperative for companies to consider product lines and partnerships to expand markets, create new revenue streams and provide added value to their customers.

Connecting consumers with products they need through channels they already know and trust is both a massive revenue opportunity and a social good, providing financial resilience to families at a time when they need it most.

Zeta Global’s IPO filing uncovers modest growth, strong adjusted profitability

Zeta Global raised north of $600 million in private capital in the form of both equity financing and debt, making it a unicorn worth understanding.

The gist is that Zeta ingests and crunches lots of data, helping its users market to their customers on a targeted basis throughout their individual buying lifecycles. In simpler terms, Zeta helps companies pitch customers in varied manners depending on their own characteristics.

You can imagine that, as the digital economy has grown, the sort of work Zeta Global supports has only expanded. So, has Zeta itself grown quickly? And does it have an attractive business profile? We want to know.

5 predictions for the future of e-commerce

Image of hands holding credit card and using laptop to represent online shopping/e-commerce.

Image Credits: Busakorn Pongparnit (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

In 2016, more than 20 years after Amazon’s founding and 10 years since Shopify launched, it would have been easy to assume e-commerce penetration (the percentage of total retail spend where the goods were bought and sold online) would be over 50%.

But what we found was shocking: The U.S. was only approximately 8% penetrated — only 8% for arguably the most advanced economy in the world!

Despite e-commerce growth skyrocketing over the past year, the reality is the U.S. has still only reached an e-commerce penetration rate of around 17%. During the last 18 months, we’ve closed the gap to South Korea and China’s e-commerce penetration of more than 25%, but there is still much progress to be made.

Here are five key predictions for what this road to further penetration will hold.

Develop a buyer’s guide to educate your startup’s sales team and customers

Note Pad and Pen on Yellow background

Image Credits: Nora Carol Photography (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Every company wants to be innovative, but innovation comes with its share of difficulties. One key challenge for early-stage companies that are disrupting a particular space or creating a new category is figuring out how to sell a unique product to customers who have never bought such a solution.

This is especially the case when a solution doesn’t have many reference points and its significance may not be obvious.

Some buyers could use a walkthrough of the buying process. If you are building a singular product in a nascent market that necessitates forward-looking customers and want to drastically shorten sales cycles, create a buyer’s guide.

When to walk away from a VC who wants to invest in your startup

lighted fire exit sign

Image Credits: cruphoto (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Pay attention to red flags when meeting with VCs: If they cancel late or leave you waiting, it’s a sign, just like being asked generic questions that demonstrate little or no understanding of the proposition. If they critique you or your business, that’s fine (obviously), but make sure you find out what’s behind their assertions to judge how well informed they are.

If you’re going to face these people each month and debate the direction of your business, the least you can expect is a robust argument outlining precisely why you may not have all the right answers.

If you fail to spot the warning signs, you’ll live to regret it. But do your due diligence and work constructively with them and, together, you might actually build a sustainable future.

Deep Science: Robots, meet world

Image via Getty Images / Westend61

This column aims to collect some of the most relevant recent discoveries and papers — particularly in, but not limited to, artificial intelligence — and explain why they matter.

In this edition, we have a lot of items concerned with the interface between AI or robotics and the real world. Of course, most applications of this type of technology have real-world applications, but specifically, this research is about the inevitable difficulties that occur due to limitations on either side of the real-virtual divide.

2 CEOs are better than 1

Defocussed shot of two silhouetted businesspeople having a meeting in the boardroom

Image Credits: PeopleImages (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Netflix has two CEOs: Co-founder Reed Hastings oversees the streaming side of the company, while Ted Sarandos guides Netflix’s content.

Warby Parker has co-CEOs as well — its co-founders went to college together. Other companies like the tech giant Oracle and luggage maker Away have shifted from having co-CEOs in recent years, sparking a wave of headlines suggesting that the model is broken.

While there isn’t a lot of research on companies with multiple CEOs, the data is more promising than the headlines would suggest. One study on public companies with co-CEOs revealed that the average tenure for co-CEOs, about 4.5 years, was comparable to solitary CEOs, “suggesting that this arrangement is more stable than previously believed.”

Furthermore, it’s impossible to be in two places at once or clone yourself. With co-CEOs, you can effectively do just that.

#airbnb, #brian-chesky, #data-infrastructure, #e-commerce, #embedded-finance, #expensify, #extra-crunch-roundup, #lordstown-motors, #newsletters, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #zeta-global

Lordstown Motors slashes production forecast for its electric pickup

Lordstown Motors’ cash-rich SPAC dreams have turned out to be nothin’ more than wishes. The automaker reported Monday a disappointing first-quarter earnings that was a pile-up of red ink-stained negativity.

Lowlights include higher-than-expected forecasted expenses, a need to raise more capital, and lower-than-anticipated production of its Endurance vehicle this year – from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000. In short, the company is set to consume more cash than the street expected, and is further from mass production of its first vehicle than promised.

The value of the company, which went public via a SPAC last year, has fallen sharply from its post-combination highs. Today its shares are off another 7% after the close of trading, thanks to its Q1 2021 report.

Investors were not thrilled with the company that 11 months ago showed off a prototype of Endurance, the all-electric pickup truck that it has bet its future on.

Lordstown Motors is an offshoot of CEO Steve Burns’ other company, Workhorse Group, a battery-electric transportation technology company that is also a publicly traded company. Workhorse is a small company that was founded in 1998 and has struggled financially at various points. Its offshoot, Lordstown Motors has previously said it planned 20,000 electric trucks annually, starting in the second half of 2021, at the former GM Assembly Plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Lordstown Motors acquired in November the 6.2 million-square-foot factory from GM.

Production woes, capital concerns

Lordstown reported a $125 million net loss on zero revenue, along with capital expenditures of $53 million in the first quarter. And yet, Lordstown had little to show for its outsized spending.

The company said in a release that it would still begin production of its Endurance electric pickup truck this year but that its output “would be at best 50% of our prior expectations.” That fact on top of its massive cash drawdown was hardly investor catnip.

“Our research indicates a very robust demand for our vehicles,” Burns told investors during a call Monday. “However, capital may limit our ability to make as many vehicles as we would like, and as such, we are constantly evaluating our capital needs, and the various types of capital available to us, including strategic capital.”

The EV company anticipates ending 2021 with just $50 to $75 million in liquidity, despite its recent SPAC combination that helped capitalize its operations. Lordstown finished 2020 with $630 million in cash; it wrapped Q1 2021 with $587 million. The company anticipates “capital expenditures of between $250 [million] and $275 million,” in addition to its regular cash consumption from operating costs.

Burns said the company was in discussions with an unnamed financial entity for asset-backed financing.

“We have zero debt and we have a lot of assets, and we’re buying a lot of parts. So there’s folks that want to finance that,” he said. Lordstown is also still pursuing an Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan from the U.S. Department of Energy. Executives said DOE has done several rounds on due diligence but declined to comment on the timing, though Burns said multiple times that Tesla wouldn’t exist had it not gotten an ATVM loan in January 2010.

For post-combination SPAC companies, Lordstown’s lackluster results and bearish trading are yet more indication that the boom in using blank-check agreements to take EV and other automotive-focused companies public was perhaps premature.

Lordstown announced its SPAC merger in September 2020 with a market value of $1.6 billion. Its shares soared to $31.80 apiece at their 52-week highs. Today they are worth $8.77.

Burns lauded the company’s purported competitive advantages, including its hub motor architecture and physical simplicity, which he said would translate into a lower cost of ownership. But the company has stiff competition from new EV entrants Rivian and Tesla (should the Cybertruck ever hit production) and legacy automakers like Ford, which debuted the electric model of its nameplate F-150 truck model earlier this month with a price point under $40,000.

But Burns reiterated his feeling that the company was on par with its competitors and that it wants to be “ready to pounce” in response to vehicle demand. The CEO also said he was confident that the truck would hit the 250-mile target range, though this is less than both the Rivian R1T and the Ford F-150 Lightning.

Lordstown also gave a brief update on pre-orders following its announcement in January that it hit a milestone of 100,000 preorders. Burns said around 30,000 of those had been converted to what it’s calling “vehicle purchase agreements,” but he demurred on exactly how many of those customers have paid anything, saying only that “many of those” agreements, including some kind of down payment.

The company also began work on its second vehicle, an electric van, with a prototype anticipated later this summer.

Financial results

Turning to Lordstown’s first quarter performance, we’re observing a pre-revenue company in the weeds of testing, and scaling production for an incredibly complex product. Which is an expensive endeavor.

Here’s the chart:

Lordstown Q1 2021

Image Credits: Lordstown

The company’s greater-than-before sales and administrative costs are whatever compared to its spiraling research and development spend. For investors holding onto Lordstown shares in hopes of its eventual early construction runs leading to mass production that is now further in the future, it’s a tough income statement to digest.

In the first quarter of 2021 the company spent around $91,000 in research and development expenses. “The higher than expected R&D spend is largely from higher part costs from a supply chain that remains under duress, from collocations, and which impacted our beta costs, higher costs of shipping included expedited shipping and greater use of temporary external engineering,” Lordstown CFO Julio Rodriguez said.

Company executives also briefly addressed accusations by short seller Hindenburg Research, who claimed the automaker was faking pre-orders of its vehicles. Hindenburg said that “extensive research reveals that the company’s orders appear largely fictitious and used as a prop to raise capital and confer legitimacy.”

Burns told investors that the company established a special independent committee to investigate the allegations in the report. This is in addition to a separate investigation from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which the company is cooperating with, he said.

In the wake of Lordstown’s results, however, shares of Tesla and Nikola were largely flat.

#automotive, #electric-trucks, #ford, #lordstown-motors, #rivian, #tesla

Short-selling firm accuses Lordstown of exaggerating truck pre-orders

Short-selling firm accuses Lordstown of exaggerating truck pre-orders

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

The short-selling firm Hindenburg Research has published a new report alleging that startup electric truckmaker Lordstown Motors has been exaggerating customer demand to aid in fundraising. CEO Steve Burns has claimed that Lordstown already has more than 100,000 pre-orders—enough to keep its Ohio factory busy for more than a year once the company starts production. In reality, these pre-orders are non-binding. And Hindenburg claims that some of the supposed customers don’t seem to have the financial resources to make good on their multi-million dollar orders even if they wanted to.

Hindenburg is in the business of selling a company’s stock short and then publishing damaging research about the firm. If the stock falls, the company makes a profit. That strategy seems to be working with Lordstown. As I write this, Lordstown’s stock is down about 15 percent for the day.

The company made its name with a September exposé of another electric truckmaker, Nikola. Hindenburg’s report revealed that a promotional video of the Nikola One truck “in motion” actually showed it rolling down a hill, with the camera tilted slightly so it appeared to be driving on level ground. Nikola’s stock has fallen about 60 percent since Hindenburg published its initial report.

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#cars, #electric-vehicles, #lordstown-endurance, #lordstown-motors

Lordstown Motors accused of faking EV truck orders by short-seller firm Hindenburg Research

Hindenburg Research, the short-seller firm whose report on Nikola Motor led to an SEC investigation and the resignation of its founder, is targeting another electric vehicle company. This time it’s Lordstown Motors, the Ohio electric automaker that went public after merging with special-purpose acquisition company DiamondPeak Holdings Corp., with a market value of $1.6 billion.

Hindenburg said in a report Friday that it has taken a short position on Lordstown Motors, causing shares to plummet 21%. Shares have recovered slightly and are now down about 15% from the previous day’s trade. Hindenburg’s short position is based on a company that it says has “no revenue and no sellable product, which we believe has misled investors on both its demand and production capabilities.”

In a report issued Friday, Hindenburg disputes that the company has booked 100,000 pre-orders for its electric pickup truck, a stat shared by Lordstown Motors in January. The short seller says that “extensive research reveals that the company’s orders appear largely fictitious and used as a prop to raise capital and confer legitimacy.” The firm goes further and alleges that Lordstown founder and CEO Steve Burns paid consultants for every truck pre-order as early as 2016 while he was leading Workhorse.

The report also provides photos and a 911 call of an incident in January when a Lordstown prototype vehicle burst into flames during a test drive.

Lordstown Motors could not be reached for comment. TechCrunch will update the article if the company responds.

Lordstown has an interesting history for company that is less than two years old. Lordstown Motors is an offshoot of Burns’ other company, Workhorse Group, a battery-electric transportation technology company that is also publicly traded. Workhorse holds a 10% stake in Lordstown Motors.

Workhorse is a small company that was founded in 1998 and has struggled financially at various points in its lifetime. Most recently, Workhorse lost a bid to become the supplier of electric vehicles to the U.S. Postal Service, which caused shares to fall nearly 15% in the days following the news. Workhorse shares are now hovering around $16.58, down 60% from its record price of $42.96 reached February 4.

Lordstown Motors acquired a 6.2 million-square-foot factory from GM in 2019. The company has said it plans to produce 20,000 electric commercial trucks annually, starting in 2021, at the former GM Assembly Plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

Lordstown revealed its Endurance electric pickup in a splashy and political-leaning ceremony in June 2020. At the time, the company didn’t provide details on the interior, performance or battery of its planned electric pickup truck. The entire second half of the event took a 90-degree turn away from the truck and centered on its special guest, former Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke for 25 minutes about former President Trump’s policies on jobs and manufacturing, China and the COVID-19 response.

Despite those lack of details, Burns told the crowd in June that it had received 20,000 pre-orders. That would mean the entire first year of production would be locked in if every customer who pre-ordered the truck followed through and bought the vehicle. Lordstown Motors said, at the time, that a number of potential customers had sent letters of intent, including AutoFlexFleet, Clean Fuels Ohio, Duke Energy, FirstEnergy, GridX, Holman Enterprises and ARI, Summit Petroleum, Turner Mining Group and Valor Holdings, as well as several Ohio municipalities.

Burns later said pre-orders had reached 100,000. Hindenburg disputes those claims.

From the Hindenburg report:

Our research has revealed that Lordstown’s order book consists of fake or entirely non-binding orders, from customers that generally do not even have fleets of vehicles. According to former employees and business partners, CEO Steve Burns sought to book orders, regardless of quality, purely as a tool to raise capital and confer legitimacy. In addition, we show how, in desperation to claim there was demand for the proposed vehicle, he paid for customers to book valueless, non-binding pre-orders.

We detail conversations with Lordstown “customers” who were eager to explain that the letters of intent (“LOI”s) with the company were “promotional”. Others assured us they were “not committed to anything” and that the pre-order commitment size recorded by Lordstown was “totally impossible”. One CEO at a ‘key’ customer told us our outreach was the first he had heard of any arrangement with Lordstown.

#automotive, #electric-pickup, #electric-vehicles, #lordstown-motors, #tc

EV rivals Tesla, Rivian unite to target direct sales legislation

Tesla, Rivian, Lordstown Motors and Lucid Motors — potential rivals in the burgeoning EV market — are working together to pass laws that would allow direct sales in at least eight states with another batch of proposed legislation likely being introduced this year.

Passage of such legislation would clear the way for EV giants like Tesla, along with newcomers Lucid and Rivian, which have yet to bring a vehicle to market, to sell directly to consumers. However, Tesla’s cooperation could also cost the company its monopoly on direct sales in some states.

Tesla and a growing number of new EV companies have a different business model than legacy automakers like GM, Ford and Stellantis. Tesla sells vehicles through their own branded stores — similar to how Apple sells its products — and do not have franchised dealerships. The direct sales model has attracted the ire of auto dealers, who benefit from long-established rules in all 50 states that prevent manufacturers with existing franchisees from opening their own dealerships to compete with them. Tesla and other allies argue that because they don’t have franchise dealers, they should be allowed to sell directly to consumers.

“We support our other EV-only manufacturers and their desires to sell direct-to-consumers, to invest, to create jobs and to do that unfettered as we are allowed,” Thad Kurowski, senior policy manager at Tesla, said while testifying in the state of Washington during the House’s Consumer Protection and Business Committee. Washington is one of many states where such legislation is being considered. Tesla has six retail locations in the state.

Similar legislation is being considered in Connecticut, Nebraska, Georgia, New York, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Nevada. Some of these states ban all EV manufacturers from directly selling to customers; some only permit Tesla, at the exclusion of other companies, but cap the number of retail stores it can open.

It’s a rare moment of cooperation for EV manufacturers, companies that must contend not only with each other but with legacy automakers for market share. Relations between the companies have not always been so copacetic: Tesla last July filed a lawsuit against Rivian alleging theft of trade secrets and talent poaching. Rivian responded that two of the three claims in the case were nothing more than an attempt to smear its reputation.

Tesla is a veteran of battles with state legislatures over direct sales. At least a dozen states, including Arizona, Colorado and Utah have reversed bans that prevented Tesla from selling directly to consumers either through new legislation or via the courts.

Michigan, home to major automakers GM and Ford, has been a longtime battleground.

Former Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill in 2014 that was initiated and backed by the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association, banning Tesla from selling directly to consumers in the state. Two years later, Tesla sued the state of Michigan when it denied Tesla a dealership license. The Michigan Legislature last December considered a bill that would have banned all direct sales except for Tesla, an arrangement that allowed the automaker to deliver cars to customers, so long as the vehicle sale and title transfer didn’t occur in the state. That special exception for Tesla was removed from the proposed legislation, a move that would have threatened what little progress it had in the state. At the end, though, the legislation died, leaving Tesla’s arrangement intact.

Lucid is leading the charge in some states where direct sales legislation is being considered, according to Daniel Witt, who worked at Tesla before joining the new EV entrant as a public policy lead. Witt emphasized the bills are the result of efforts from the coalition of EV companies, grassroots lobbying from EV owners and EV enthusiasts and consumer groups. The legislation has also found support from environmental and clean energy groups, which argue that consumer choice and ease of access are key to helping people transition away from internal combustion engine cars.

“Any situation where the door got closed behind Tesla was not a matter of trying to gain a market advantage so much as it was just a product of the negotiations in a given legislature,” Witt said. “By and large, whether it’s New York, or Washington or Connecticut, we’re all rowing in the same direction.”

In a statement to TechCrunch, the Washington State Auto Dealers Association said franchised dealers support the transition toward zero-emission vehicles and want to sell them at their locations. But it said the direct sale bill is a “battle of Main Street vs. Wall Street.”

“Electric vehicle manufacturers perpetuate [the] myth of the middleman when the reality is that they would bear the same costs if they built their own stores, but would ship their revenue to their billionaire investors out of state after the sale is made instead of reinvesting in the community,” the group said.

The organization pointed out that Rivian has garnered $500 million in funding from Ford.

“What would stop Ford from abandoning its dealer network, and shifting the profits dealers generate for the company out of Ford and into greater ownership of Rivian? Or GM from spinning off an EV subsidiary?” the group said in its statement.

EV manufacturers have a long legislative road ahead of them. Bills generally must clear legislative committees and receive majority votes from both the House and Senate before being sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #lordstown-motors, #lucid-motors, #rivian, #tesla, #transportation

With a reported deal in the wings for Joby Aviation, electric aircraft soars to $10B business

One year after nabbing $590 million from investors led by Toyota, and a few months after picking up Uber’s flying taxi businessJoby Aviation is reportedly in talks to go public in a SPAC deal that would value the electric plane manufacturer at nearly $5.7 billion.

News of a potential deal comes on the heels of another big SPAC transaction in electric planes, for Archer Aviation. If the Financial Times‘ reporting is accurate, then that would mean that the two will soon be publicly traded at a total value approaching $10 billion.

It’s a heady time for startups making vehicles powered by anything other than hydrocarbons, and the SPAC wave has hit it hard.

Electric car companies Arrival, Canoo, ChargePoint, Fisker, Lordstown Motors, Proterra and The Lion Electric Company are some of the companies that have merged with SPACs — or announced plans to — in the past year.

Now it appears that any company that has anything to do with the electrification of any mode of transportation is going to get waved onto the runway for a public listing through a special purpose acquisition company vehicle — a wildly popular route at the moment for companies that might find traditional IPO listings more challenging to carry out but would rather not stay in startup mode when it comes to fundraising.

The investment group reportedly taking Joby to the moon! out to public markets is led by the billionaire tech entrepreneurs and investors Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, and Mark Pincus, who launched the casual gaming company, Zynga.

Together the two men had formed Reinvent Technology Partners, a special purpose acquisition company, earlier in 2020. The shell company went public and raised $690 million to make a deal.

Any transaction for Joby would be a win for the company’s backers including Toyota, Baillie Gifford, Intel Capital, JetBlue Technology Ventures (the investment arm of the US-based airline), and Uber, which invested $125 million into Joby.

Joby has a prototype that has already taken 600 flights, but has yet to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. And the success of any transaction between the company and Hoffman and Pincus’ SPAC group is far from a sure thing, as the FT noted.

The deal would require an additional capital infusion into the SPAC that the two men established, and without that extra cash, all bets are off. Indeed, that is probably one reason why anyone is reading about this now.

Alternatively powered transportation vehicles of all stripes and covering all modes of travel are the rage right now among the public investment crowd. Part of that is due to rising pressure among institutional investors to find companies with an environmental, sustainability, and good governance thesis that they can invest in, and part of that is due to tailwinds coming from government regulations pushing for the decarbonization of fleets in a bid to curb global warming.

The environmental impact is one chief reason that United chief executive Scott Kirby cited when speaking about his company’s $1 billion purchase order from the electric plane company that actually announced it would be pursuing a public offering through a SPAC earlier this week.

“By working with Archer, United is showing the aviation industry that now is the time to embrace cleaner, more efficient modes of transportation,” Kirby said. “With the right technology, we can curb the impact aircraft have on the planet, but we have to identify the next generation of companies who will make this a reality early and find ways to help them get off the ground.”

It’s also an investment in a possible new business line that could eventually shuttle United passengers to and from an airport, as TechCrunch reported earlier. United projected that a trip in one of Archer’s eVTOL aircraft could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 50% per passenger traveling between Hollywood and Los Angeles International Airport.

The agreement to go public and the order from United Airlines comes less than a year after Archer Aviation came out of stealth. Archer was co-founded in 2018 by Adam Goldstein and Brett Adcock, who sold their software-as-a-service company Vettery to The Adecco Group for more than $100 million. The company’s primary backer was Marc Lore, who sold his company Jet.com to Walmart in 2016 for $3.3 billion. Lore was Walmart’s e-commerce chief until January.

For any SPAC investors or venture capitalists worried that they’re now left out of the EV plane investment bonanza, take heart! There’s still the German tech developer, Lilium. And if an investor is interested in supersonic travel, there’s always Boom.

#adam-goldstein, #airline, #baillie-gifford, #canoo, #chargepoint, #co-founder, #corporate-finance, #e-commerce, #economy, #evtol, #federal-aviation-administration, #finance, #fisker, #intel-capital, #investment, #jet-com, #jetblue-technology-ventures, #joby, #joby-aviation, #lilium, #linkedin, #lordstown-motors, #marc-lore, #mark-pincus, #private-equity, #proterra, #reid-hoffman, #reinvent-technology-partners, #software-as-a-service, #spacs, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #tc, #the-adecco-group, #the-financial-times, #toyota, #transportation, #uber, #united-airlines, #vettery, #walmart, #zynga

Little-known EV and lidar firms are raising billions in Tesla’s shadow

Red Nikola Two.

Enlarge / The Nikola Two truck drives out on the stage at an April 2019 event. (credit: Megan Geuss)

Lidar startup Luminar is going public, the company announced on Monday. Instead of going with a traditional IPO, Luminar is jumping on the latest Wall Street fad: merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Merging with a SPAC allows a startup to go public more quickly, with less paperwork and more certainty about the sale price. The deal gives Luminar, which only expects to sell about 100 lidar sensors this year, a post-money valuation of $3.4 billion.

It’s the latest in a string of companies connected to the electric and self-driving car revolutions that have gone public using a SPAC. Most have found strong interest from investors.

In March, electric truck startup Nikola announced that it would go public with help from a SPAC. By the time the merger concluded three months later, Nikola’s value had shot up seven-fold. It has since settled down to four times the initial sale value. That values Nikola—a company that has yet to deliver a single vehicle to customers—at $14 billion, about half the value of Ford.

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#canoo, #cars, #henrik-fisker, #lordstown-motors, #nikola, #rivian, #tesla

Electric Vehicle Makers Find a Back Door to Wall Street

Special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, are helping them and other fledgling companies raise money and gain coveted stock listings.

#ackman-william-a, #automobiles, #banking-and-financial-institutions, #electric-and-hybrid-vehicles, #initial-public-offerings, #lordstown-ohio, #lordstown-motors, #mergers-acquisitions-and-divestitures, #start-ups, #stocks-and-bonds, #tesla-motors-inc, #trucks-and-trucking

Lordstown Motors becomes latest EV automaker to use a SPAC to go public

Lordstown Motors, the one-year-old Ohio electric automaker that revealed a pickup truck prototype in June, has reached a deal to merge with special-purpose acquisition company DiamondPeak Holdings Corp, with a market value of $1.6 billion.

The agreement marks the latest company — and electric automaker — to become a publicly traded company through a merger agreement with a SPAC, or blank check company. Electric automakers Nikola Motor and Fisker Inc. have also become public companies through a SPAC over the past two months. Shift Technologies, an online used car marketplace and sensor company Velodyne Lidar, also went public via a SPAC, sidestepping the traditional IPO path.

In this latest SPAC, the combined company will remain on the Nasdaq under a new ticker symbol RIDE. DiamondPeak Holdings Corp. was listed on exchange under the ticker DPHC.

The company said it was able to raise $500 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE, including a $75 million investment by General Motors. Other institutional investors that joined included Fidelity Management & Research Company, Wellington Management Company, Federated Hermes Kaufmann Small Cap Fund and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock.

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2020. The new combined company’s board will include Steve Burns, the founder and CEO of Lordstown, and David Hamamoto, Chairman and CEO of DiamondPeak.

SPACs have been around for decades and have gone by different names, including “blind pools” and “clean shell companies and blank-check companies. A SPAC is a corporation that has no defined business plan or purpose other than to raise money from public markets to acquire a private company. The SPAC has seen a resurgence in 2020, particularly in the second and now third quarters.

Lordstown has an interesting history for such a young company. Lordstown Motors is an offshoot of Burns’ other company, Workhorse Group, a battery-electric transportation technology company that is also a publicly traded company.  Workhorse is a small company that was founded in 1998 and has struggled financially at various points. Its offshoot, Lordstown Motors, revealed a prototype of an electric pickup truck called Endurance that is aimed at contractors and other buyers in the commercial market.

The plan is to produce 20,000 of these electric commercial trucks annually, starting in the second half of 2021, at the former GM Assembly Plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Lordstown Motors acquired in November the 6.2 million-square-foot factory from GM.

The combined company plans to use about  $675 million of gross proceeds from the SPAC transaction to  fund production of the Endurance. Since the truck’s unveiling, the company has secured pre-orders valued at $1.4 billion (or about 27,000 total pre-orders), according to Burns.

#automotive, #lordstown-motors, #nikola-motor, #spac

Meet the Lordstown Endurance, a new $52,500 electric work truck

Good news, everyone: the battery electric vehicle market is about to get more crowded. On Thursday, Lordstown Motors unveils the Lordstown Endurance, a new BEV truck aimed at the fleet market. The $52,500 truck goes into production next year in Lordstown, Ohio, at a former General Motors factory, and unlike forthcoming BEV pickups from Tesla and Rivian, this one is aimed squarely at the commercial and fleet market.

If news about a US-made electric pickup geared toward the work truck market sounds familiar to you, that’s understandable. In 2018, we took a look at the Workhorse W-15, a carbon-fiber plug-in hybrid EV work truck that was designed in Ohio. But Workhorse ran into funding problems and decided to shelve the W-15. It also let go its CEO, Steve Burns, who licensed some of the W-15 technology for a new project. That new project was Lordstown Motors, named for the town in Ohio where its factory is located. It’s a factory that built Chevrolet Cruises until it was closed last year in a widely criticized cost-cutting exercise by General Motors. (GM and LG Chem have also chosen Lordstown as the site of a new battery gigafactory.)

It looks like a normal truck

The first thing you notice about the Endurance is that it looks like it was styled to blend in on an American worksite, not to stand out on the surface of Mars. “We really tried to strike a balance on the looks, since we cater to fleets,” Burns told me when we spoke by phone on Wednesday. “We thought, let’s keep the vehicle so that at least it’s a pickup truck. It has a bed and a cab and a hood, but let’s make sure—because a lot of fleets are very proud that they are putting their names on the side of an electric vehicle—let’s make sure folks can point to that and say, ‘Oh, that’s one of those electrics,'” he told me.

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#cars, #electric-pickup-truck, #electric-truck, #lordstown-endurance, #lordstown-motors, #pickup-truck, #truck, #workhorse