Automotive

The Electric Vehicle Startup Bubble Keeps Getting Bigger


Illustration for article titled The Electric Vehicle Startup Bubble Keeps Getting Bigger

Photo: Karma

Tesla, you might have heard/noticed, has been on quite the roll, with its stock surging in recent weeks to make it, on paper, the most valuable automaker in the world. That has been a boon for Tesla, but it’s also helped attract millions to Tesla’s would-be rivals, too.

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Take Karma, which our sources said last week was considering Chapter 11 bankruptcy (something the company denied) but seem to be in a little better shape today, with Bloomberg reporting that it has received $100 million in new financing.

Karma Automotive, maker of the Revero plug-in hybrid luxury car, has raised $100 million from outside investors as the company and its parent seek to tap into an electric-car stock surge by seeking an additional $300 million.

[…]

Hoping to capitalize on soaring valuations of EV makers such as Tesla Inc. and newer entrants like Nikola Corp. and Workhorse Group Inc., Wanxiang is selling stakes in Karma to private equity partners. The Hangzhou, China-based company is committed to Karma and sees the boom in EV-maker shares as an opportunity to attract other investors, said Pin Ni, president of Wanxiang’s U.S. business.

“Karma has real production, real technology and real dealers,” Ni said in a phone interview. “Look at Tesla’s value and you see Workhorse with their stock going up ten times recently.”

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So that’s $100 million for a company whose president has to insist in an interview that it’s real. Normal stuff.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported in a different story today that Fisker—the EV car startup founded by Henrik Fisker, who used to be with Karma in a former incarnation—got $50 million, at a valuation of $1.6 billion.

Electric-vehicle maker Fisker Inc. has raised $50 million from hedge fund veteran Louis Bacon, with the money going toward engineering for the SUV it aims to roll out in 2022, the company said.

The deal, done through Bacon’s private investment vehicle Moore Strategic Ventures LLC, values Fisker at more than $1.6 billion according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

[…]

“We are radically challenging the conventional industry thinking about developing and selling cars,” [founder Henrik Fisker] said in a statement. “This capital will allow us to execute our planned timeline to start producing vehicles in 2022.”

Both of these cases pale compared to Nikola, the truck startup currently worth around $19 billion, even though it has no revenue.

You can expect even more money to be dumped into this space if Tesla announces a second-quarter profit in a few weeks. That would send Tesla shares soaring even higher. It would also make Tesla profitable for four quarters in a row for the first time, the benchmark many have used in evaluating whether Tesla has “made it” as a company, a feat that would have only taken over a decade-and-a-half.

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That’s also the kind of timeframe every car startup should have in mind when they decide to go down this road—until somebody else beats it—with many bubbles and bursting bubbles along the way.

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