Publications

- March 1, 2019: Vol. 6, Number 3

Auto icon aims to make mark in EVs: An invitation-only investment opportunity from Fisker Inc.

by Mike Consol

Automotive design legend Henrik Fisker is a man with a lot of secrets. He is raising money from investors — by invitation only — for a high-production electric vehicle to go head-to-head with Tesla, but he isn’t naming who those investors are, with the exception of Caterpillar. Yet, Caterpillar’s commitment is not being disclosed. Double-digit millions are being sought per investor, though there is no stated minimum investment or fundraising target. Fisker Inc. has collaborated with a “very large” automaker to reduce costs, but the partner is also a secret. The new vehicle is being kept under tight wraps. The new vehicle’s name is still to be decided, though it already is being designed under a codename, and the codename is also undisclosed. (Though, Fisker notes, it will not be a number but an actual name, because names are more emotionally appealing.)

At this stage, Fisker Inc. is a clandestine operation that won’t be unveiled until late this year or early 2020, “probably” at a special event in Los Angeles, though even the venue and nature of the event was speculative, as of a January 2019 podcast interview I conducted with Fisker (accessible at this link: https://bit.ly/2IcgYuw).

What he aims to accomplish is a reinvention of the vehicle category in the same way Apple reinvented the smartphone. “I’ve set myself quite a big task,” he admits.

Like the iPhone, Fisker expects to present a product whose design (interior and exterior) delivers a major wow-factor and will take years for competing automakers to replicate, largely because of the custom machining involved in creating its parts. Among the standout features will be “futuristic” lights and an instrument panel worthy of the high-tech era in which we operate. (If you want to get some indication of Fisker’s design sensibilities, Google images of some of the vehicles he has designed over the years, such as BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage.)

There’s more. Fisker Inc. is also in the battery R&D business, solid-state batteries rather than lithium ion, because the solid-state technology packs more energy in the same space, does not overheat, charges faster, and has a longer range. A 500-mile range is easily achieved, Fisker claims, and the batteries will recharge in less than 10 minutes — basically taking little more time than required to fill a tank with gasoline.

All that for just $40,000. Really?

“I don’t think anybody has yet come out with a truly daring production car with a radical new design that is affordable and in the electric space,” Fisker says. “There is a lot of interest in the space. We haven’t had any issue finding investors so far.”

Though, as is the case with any modern-day automobile, parts will come from around the world, the nameless EV will be assembled in the United States. Where will those manufacturing jobs be located? That, as of now, is yet another secret.

ON ANOTHER TRANSPORTATION FRONT …

This was supposed to be the era of the superjumbo commercial airliner, by many people’s estimation, and Airbus jumped on the supposed opportunity by manufacturing the Airbus A380, which, depending on configuration, can take airborne as many as 853 passengers. That is all past tense, because Airbus is ceasing production of its A380 for lack of sales. The company says Emirates Airline, one its largest A380 customers, reduced its order and Airbus has had difficulty finding replacement buyers. The company acknowledged the airline market has shifted to smaller planes that are less expensive to maintain and can be accommodated at regional airports.

THE BATTLE TO RAISE YOUR HOME’S IQ

KB Home, one of the country’s largest homebuilders, is integrating its KB Smart Home System with Google Assistant for two of its newest development projects. A Google Wifi network will be built into each home, along with two Google Home smart speakers, and a Nest Hello video doorbell. The KB Home/Google partnership is the first in the homebuilding industry, according to Jeffrey Mezger, the homebuilder’s CEO, but it’s expected to be the first of many, as Apple, Amazon, Google and other companies battle for supremacy in the massive U.S. residential real estate market.

Google entered the home market in early 2014 with the acquisition of Nest Labs, though Amazon made a bigger splash with the introduction of its voice-enabled Echo in late 2014. Google struck back in November 2016 with the advent of its Google Home smart speaker system. The Amazon Echo has captured a majority share of the U.S. market, though Apple, Google and other competitors are closing the gap. Statistics show Echo’s 93 percent market share in 2016 has been reduced to about 65 percent. The battlefield is still wide open, as only about 25 percent of U.S. households currently use smart-speaker systems.

 

Mike Consol (m.consol@irei.com) is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @mikeconsol to read his latest postings.

 

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