Software snafus abound, Nuro makes more cuts and VinFast takes the SPAC road
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Automakers have been struggling with software development for years now. But the stakes are higher than ever because all of these companies keep touting the coming of the “software-defined” car, in part, to compete with Tesla. It reminds me of the days when automakers (and others) called future cars “an iPhone on wheels.”
Making declarations around software is not the same as actually pulling it off. And automakers are figuring this out.
Software problems have led to an executive shakeup over at VW Group’s software arm Cariad, prompted Chinese regulators to recall 1.1 million Tesla vehicles, and caused Polestar and Volvo Cars to delay production of their respective EVs. Fisker has also reportedly struggled with software integration problems in its Ocean SUV. And that’s just this week.
Software is also leading automakers to beef up their internal teams, instead of going to suppliers. General Motors, for instance, hired Apple executive Mike Abbott to head up its software division.
The upshot: Software-defined vehicles are still a work in progress.
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France will spend 2 billion euros ($2.17 billion) through 2027 to improve cycle infrastructure and help people buy e-bikes. Bien joué!
Grant Sinclair’s enclosed electric trike is “designed to be safe like riding inside a large crash helmet.”
India’s Hop Electric delivered its first over-the-air update to its OXO electric motorcycle. The company used user-generated data to inform the changes it made, like improved acceleration and range-prediction.
Lime has asked a federal California court not to throw out a suit accusing Hertz of using trade secrets to build a new version of its mobile app within weeks of one of Lime’s top engineers leaving for the car rental company.
With the rise of e-bikes comes the rise of waste from e-bikes at the end of their lives. PeopleForBikes and Call2Recycle want to stop battery waste before it starts. The two launched their “Hungry for Batteries” e-bike recycling campaign to help simplify the process of recycling e-bike batteries.
Segway-Ninebot has unveiled its 2023 lineup of smart vehicles, including the Ninebot KickScooter F2 Series, the Ninebot KickScooter Max G2, the Segway eScooter E300SE and more. Segway says the F2 and Max G2 come with auto-class traction control systems, giving the rider max control on slippery conditions. Segway also partnered with Apple to integrate Find My technology into the F2 and Max G so users can find their scooters if stolen.
Swft released its 2023 lineup of e-bikes, including two mountain bikes, an all-terrain e-bike and a BMW-style e-bike.
VanMoof has refreshed its entry-level lineup with colorful new e-bikes. The X4 and S4, out this month, have the same frame and vibes of VanMoof’s previous X3 and S3, but less of the high-tech complexities.
Yamaha introduced the Booster e-bike with a top speed of 15 miles per hour and the Booster speed pedelec with a top speed of 28 miles per hour.
— Rebecca Bellan
Deal of the week
As I mentioned last week, mobility SPACs are having a helluva time — and not in the fun party kind of way. EV SPACs like Arrival, Canoo, Faraday Future, Lordstown, Lucid and Nikola have seen their values annihilated in the past year. And yet, another company is voluntarily jumping into the SPAC fray.
You might recall that VinFast, the Vietnamese EV maker and arm of conglomerate Vingroup, filed in December 2022 for an initial public offering in the United States. The company is now taking a different path to the public market. On Friday, VinFast announced it would go public through a merger with SPAC (or blank-check) company Black Spade Acquisition Co.
Under the deal, VinFast will have an equity value of about $23 billion. Considering that VinFast’s VF8 EV has been widely criticized for just about everything from ride quality to literally failing to operate, this run for the public markets might not be the best idea. I guess we’ll see!
Other deals that got my attention this week …
CelLink, a California-based automotive wiring components startup, has received conditional commitment for a $362 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program. The funds will be used to help finance the construction of a factory in Texas.
Faraday Future plans to raise $100 million in debt, critical funds that will allow the company to start initial deliveries of its flagship FF 91 Futurist vehicle. And the struggling EV SPAC is going to need it. The company’s earnings report shows it had $33 million in cash and restricted cash at the end of the first quarter.
Getaround plans to acquire the assets of HyreCar, another car-sharing marketplace, for $9.45 million.
ProLogium Technology, a Taiwanese solid-state battery maker backed by Mercedes-Benz, is considering raising fresh funding at a valuation of about $2 billion, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources.
Qualcomm plans to acquire Autotalks, a fabless chipmaker out of Israel that builds semiconductor and system-on-a-chip technology to aid in automotive safety; sources told TechCrunch that Qualcomm is paying between $350 million and $400 million for the startup.
UVeye, the automated vehicle inspection technology startup based in New Jersey and Tel Aviv, raised $100 million in a Series D funding round led by Hanaco VC. Existing investors GM Ventures, CarMax, W.R. Berkley Corporation, F.I.T. Ventures LP and Israeli institutional investors also participated in the round, which has pushed its valuation to about $800 million.
Wingcopter, a delivery drone startup based in Germany, picked up €40 million (close to $44 million) in financing from the European Investment Bank.
Notable reads and other tidbits
Porsche has partnered with Mobileye to bring hands-free automated assistance and navigation functions to future sports cars.
Nuro is laying off 30%, or about 340 employees, across the company as part of a restructuring meant to extend its capital runway. The company is also pausing plans to ramp up commercial operations this year and delay volume production of its Nuro bot — the third-generation, or R3, delivery robot designed to be the flagship of its commercial strategy.
Ouster was named the exclusive long-range lidar supplier through 2026 to Motional for its Ioniq 5 robotaxis.
Woof! There were a lot of earnings this week and many of the results were on the gloomy side of things. I can’t cover them all, but here are a few highlights.
Bird cuts costs in the first quarter, but the rest of its results, including ridership and revenue, were not so hot.
Gogoro reported first-quarter revenue of $79.3 million, down 16% year-over-year, while its net loss grew to $40.6 million — up from its net loss of $21.7 million in the same quarter last year. The company said that while revenue from its battery-swapping service was up YoY, sales of hardware and vehicle sales decreased compared to the same quarter last year.
Lucid’s first-quarter results show a company with widening losses and revenue that failed to meet Wall Street expectations. Lucid’s Q1 revenue was $149.4 million, up year-over-year, but lower than the $257.7 million it reported in the fourth quarter of 2022. Importantly, the company said it plans to produce more than 10,000 vehicles in 2023, which is on the lower end of its previous guidance.
Luminar beat its own guidance for Q1 and brought in $14.5 million in revenue, up 112% from the same period last year. That gain is on top of a net loss of $146.8 million, which was wider than expected. Luminar still has cash and cash equivalents of around $90 million. The lidar company said it’s on track to meet or beat its goal of adding at least $1 billion to its forward-looking order book in 2023 and expects its revenue to grow 100% in 2023.
Rivian was one of the few bright spots — although the company is still burning through cash. The company beat Wall Street expectations with $661 million in revenue in the first quarter, a nearly seven-fold increase from the same period last year when it was plagued by supply constraints and production woes that curbed deliveries. It also managed to narrow losses to $1.35 billion, or $1.45 per share, in the first quarter, down from the $1.59 billion, $1.77 per share, in losses in Q1 2022. Oh, and how could I forget — Rivian is sitting on $12 billion in cash.
TuSimple did not file a Q1 report, and that’s the problem. The company hasn’t filed an earnings report since the end of the third quarter in 2022. As a result, TuSimple received a delisting notice from the Nasdaq for failing to file its quarterly report on time. TuSimple shares may stop trading as early as May 15.
Electric vehicles, charging and batteries
Fisker lowered its production target for the year to 32,000 EVs. The EV company also said it has partnered with Ample to bring the first Fisker Ocean SUV to market with swappable battery technology by Q1 2024. The companies intend to share revenue generated from the battery-swapping system.
Subaru is stepping up its EV plans. The company plans to add four EVs to its portfolio with an aim to produce 400,000 units by 2028.
Tesla officially broke ground on a Texas lithium refinery, making it the only U.S. automaker to refine its own lithium.
Volvo will call its upcoming small all-electric SUV the EX30.
Google unveiled a bunch of new auto-related features — like YouTube and conferencing coming to cars — at the company’s 2023 Google I/O developers conference. Auto tidbit of the event: By the end of the year, 200 million vehicles will be equipped with Android Auto.
Tesla is facing another lawsuit. This time, a group of Tesla Model S and Model X owners filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco alleging that automatic software updates decreased driving range or caused battery failures.
HopSkipDrive brought on a new executive team with backgrounds from Walmart, The Honest Company and Bird.
Vianova is working with French public transport operator RATP to analyze curb activities and sidewalk usage to prevent bus lane congestion and transform curb usage in Paris.
Zipline, the drone delivery startup, is expanding its U.S. customer base across healthcare, restaurant and retail verticals.
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