Musk defense “borders on the ridiculous,” SEC tells court

Elon Musk

The Securities and Exchange Commission heaped scorn on Elon Musk and his legal arguments in a Monday legal filing. The agency is asking New York federal Judge Alison Nathan to hold Musk in contempt for tweeting a projection of 2019 vehicle output without first getting the tweet approved by Tesla’s lawyers.

Musk has been battling the SEC since last August, when he tweeted that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private. That turned out to be untrue, and it’s illegal to publish inaccurate information that has the potential to move markets. Under the terms of a September deal, Musk paid a $20 million fine and gave up his role as the chairman of Tesla’s board (Tesla paid an additional $20 million).

Musk also promised to have Tesla lawyers review future tweets that could contain information that is “material”—that is, significant enough to affect the price of Tesla’s stock.

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Ola raises $300M as part of a new electric vehicle partnership with Hyundai and Kia

Ride-hailing platform Ola announced today that it has raised $300 million from Hyundai and Kia as part of a strategic partnership focused on electric vehicle development.

This brings the company’s total raised to $3.8 billion according to Crunchbase. Ola’s last funding was announced just three weeks ago, when the company said it had raised $56 million in early funding by investors including Tiger Global and Matrix India (two of its earliest backers) to spend on its recently spun-out electric vehicle business called Ola Electric Mobility.

In a press release, Ola said the partnership will build “India-specific” electric vehicles and infrastructure customized for Ola’s fleet and operating and management software. It also includes new financing programs, such as loans and installment payments, for driver who want to purchase the EVs.

Ola Electric Mobility’s challenges including building EV infrastructure (and gathering related data, including maps) for India’s sprawling and diverse landscape. One incentive is the government’s stated goal of making 30 percent of the country’s vehicles electric by 2030, though it hasn’t formalized that policy yet.

Ola’s announcement said that “data accumulated during service operation will allow the companies to make constant vehicle improvements to better meet local needs and specifications.” For Hyundai, the partnership represents an opportunity to move beyond being an auto-maker to taking control of all parts in the “mobility value chain,” including production, fleet operation and services.

Ola’s goal is to increase its drivers from 1.3 million to two million and offer one million EVs by 2022. Its other EV programs include a pledge to add 10,000 rickshaws for use in cities.

Report: Trump “would never get in a self-driving car”

President Donald Trump, as seen on January 27, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia.

Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Transportation, Elaine Chao, has worked hard to avoid placing regulatory barriers in the way of self-driving cars. But Chao’s boss is a driverless car skeptic, Axios reports.

One Axios source had a conversation with Trump in 2017 where he mentioned owning a Tesla with Autopilot technology. According to the source, Trump “was like, ‘Yeah that’s cool but I would never get in a self-driving car… I don’t trust some computer to drive me around.'”

On another occasion, Trump reportedly said, “Can you imagine, you’re sitting in the back seat and all of a sudden this car is zig-zagging around the corner and you can’t stop the f—ing thing?”

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Tesla Model Y orders are now open

Customers can already place an order for the Tesla Model Y, a mid-sized crossover SUV that won’t go into production until 2020.

Tesla requires a $2,500 deposit to complete the order for the all-electric vehicle, according to information posted on its website. A disclaimer on the order form states that “production is expected to begin late next year.” Under that timeline, deliveries wouldn’t begin until late 2020 or possibly early 2021.

There are other clues on the order page, including that the seven-seat interior won’t be available until 2021. The Model Y will come standard as a five seater.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Model Y on Thursday night at the Tesla Design Studio in Los Angeles. During the presentation, Musk didn’t mention that customers could order the Model Y. That’s a departure from previous events, notably the Model 3 reveal in March 2016, which prompted thousands of people to put down $1,000 deposits.

The Model Y bears a striking resemblance to Model 3, and for good reason. The Model Y shares about 75 percent of the same parts as the Model 3.

The vehicle, which will come in a standard, long range, dual-motor all-wheel and performance variants, is larger than the Model 3, allowing it to accommodate seven people (for those who opt to pay the $3,000 up charge). The order page of the Model Y shows that it comes standard as a 5-seater. To get the 7-seater configuration, customers have to pay an additional $3,000.

The Model Y also sits higher than the Model 3, a distinction that is more obvious once you’re sitting inside. One of the most distinguishing differences is the Model Y has a panoramic roof.

The standard range version will start $39,000 and have 230 mile range. However, Tesla will first produce the performance, dual-motor and long range versions. Customers who want the standard range version of the Model Y will have to wait until at least spring 2021. The performance and dual motor variants will be able to travel 280 miles on a single charge, while the long-range version will, as it sounds, have the longest range at 300 miles.

All of the variants are designed to have the same kind of performance as its smaller sibling. The performance version of the Model Y will be able to travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 150 mph.

But that kind of performance comes at a higher price. The performance version will start at $60,000. The dual motor variant will start at $51,000 and the base price of the long-range version will be $47,000.

At a quick Los Angeles event, Tesla announces the 300-mile-range Model Y

Tonight in Los Angeles, Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed off a prototype version of the Model Y, the fourth mass-produced vehicle that the electric car maker will bring to market. The vehicle, as expected, will be a larger, SUV-version of the Model 3, much like the Model X was the larger, SUV-version of the Model S.

Musk revealed very few details about the upcoming car, but a few key figures stuck out: the 300-mile, long-range version of the vehicle will go into production in Fall 2020 with an MSRP of $47,000. The 230-mile, standard version will cost $37,000 and go into production in Spring 2021, according to Musk. The Y will seat seven people with 66 cubic feet of storage space.

The vehicle will also have the option of a dual-motor all wheel drive option and a performance option, at an additional cost.

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On the edge of something really good: Ford Edge review

The 2019 Ford Edge Titanium.

If you want to know about the state of the auto industry in the US, look no further than Ford. Once the home of sedans like the Taurus and Crown Victoria, Ford has decided to largely give up on cars and focus its efforts on SUVs and trucks. That means more attention to models like the Explorer and Escape, plus the return of the Bronco (will it be available in OJ Simpson White?). Oh, and the Ford Edge has gotten some serious love from Ford for 2019—it has been redesigned with lots of help from the Ford Performance Team. Let’s have a look.

The Ford Edge slots roughly into the middle of Ford’s massive lineup of SUVs and crossovers. On the smaller side are the EcoSport and Escape; the Explorer, Flex, and Expedition complete Ford’s range of SUVs. At 188 inches long (4,775mm), the Edge looks more like a squat SUV with a blunt-looking front end than other compact crossovers like the Volkswagen Tiguan. Ford’s makeover for the Flex manifests itself with new bi-LED headlights, new 18-inch bright-machined aluminum wheels (20-inch wheels come with the Titanium Elite package), sportier-looking front and rear fascia, and a wider grille. And you can admire the new liftgate appliqué as you walk toward the Edge with your bags of groceries.

As is the case with most compact crossovers, Ford has equipped the Edge with a 2.0L, 16-valve turbocharged engine capable of 250hp (184kW) at 5,500rpm and 275lb-ft (373Nm) of torque at 3,000rpm, which comes with the SE, SEL, and Titanium trim. The Edge SL has a 2.7L 24-valve EcoBoost V6 that offers 335hp (246kW) at 5,500rpm. There’s a new eight-speed automatic transmission with standard front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is standard on the SL and available across the rest of the lineup). Our review car had the four-banger under the hood.

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862,520 Fiat-Chrysler vehicles have emissions issues, will be recalled

RAM logo covered in snow.

Issues with the catalytic converters of 862,520 Fiat-Chrysler vehicles are prompting a semi-voluntary recall, according to officials from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

The vehicles in question include:

  • 2011-2016 Model Year (MY) Dodge Journey
  • 2011-2014 MY Chrysler 200/Dodge Avenger
  • 2011-2012 MY Dodge Caliber
  • 2011-2016 MY Jeep Compass/Patriot

The recall will be conducted in phases, with owners of older cars being notified first that they can bring their cars in to be fixed. The last phase is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2019. Unlike previous Fiat-Chrysler emissions recalls, these fixes require replacement parts.

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Drivezy, India’s vehicle sharing startup, is raising $100M+ at a $400M valuation, eyes US expansion

Drivezy — the startup out of India that wants to turn private car usage on its head through a car-sharing network where people lend their cars and two-wheeled vehicles but also have options to use vehicles from a fleet managed by Drivezy — said it is raising more money as it gears up for the next stage of its expansion, including a launch in the US in coming weeks.

The company is in the process of raising $100 million in equity funding, plus another $400 million in asset financing, with the latter to help continue building out the inventory that sits alongside the vehicles provided by its users. This would technically be a Series C and is being raised at a $400 million valuation, the company confirmed to me.

“Currently” is the key word: Ankur Sengupta, who heads up business development for Drivezy, said in an interview that the startup will leave the round open for about a year and continue raising it on a rolling basis, with the valuation varying accordingly. “The valuation we are working at now is $400 million, but we will keep accepting investments, at different valuations,” he said.

(Note: This is not an entirely new way of raising rounds, but in the last few years, it has become a lot more common to see it rather clear “Series” blocks. Fast-growing companies like Snap and more recently Grab in Southeast Asia have chosen this route to tap into readily available funding faster and closer to when it’s actually needed.)

The company is not disclosing any names right now except to note that it is likely to include a new, large investor from Japan, and that it also has commitments from investors in the US, Singapore and China. Previous backers have included the Yamaha Motor Company, Axan Partners and IT-Farm, as well as Y-Combinator — where Drivezy was a part of a 2016 cohort as JustRide, led by its five founders Amit Sahu, Ashwarya Pratap Singh, Vasant Verma, Abhishek Mahajan and Hemant Sah. It has also been through Google’s Launchpad accelerator, although it doesn’t look like Google is investing (yet).

Drivezy last raised money as recently as three months ago, a $20 million Series B, when it also raised $100 million in asset financing. Alongside users’ own cars and the fleet it manages, Drivezy also works with in partnership with dealerships and others to provide vehicles for its inventory.

Between then and now, the company has seen a lot of growth.

The company gets more than 53,000 bookings for cars each month, versus 37,000/month just three months ago. Two-wheeled vehicles — primarily motorcycles — add nearly 30,000 more. While cars are typically booked for two-three days, two-wheeler bookings are weekly or monthly bookings.

The inventory has also gone up. Currently, there are 7,500 two-wheelers on the platform, with another 7,500 coming by the end this month; and 3,500 cars. (This is up from 5,000 motorbikes and scooters and 3,000 cars three months ago.) Currently there are 30 dealerships and more than 25 banks and other financial companies in Drivezy’s network.

Drivezy’s growth is coming at what seems to be a key inflection point for the transportation industry.

Some believe the the days of vehicle ownership in mature markets like the US are numbered, with several developments helping that trend along: the rise of over-expensive self-driving cars that many will not be able to afford; the proliferation of affordable Uber-style services; and the emergence of startups like Getaround (which will be a direct competitor to Drivezy when it comes to the US) and Fair to make it easy and cheap to procure a car ride without buying a car or using old-school car rental services.

But in developing markets like India, vehicle ownership is already a relative rarity, even if the desire to use a car is not: currently only seven percent of Indians own a car and sixteen percent own two-wheelers.

“That’s meant that the auto industry has been slow to grow here,” Sengupta said. (That, plus patchy public transport in many urban areas, has also meant a lot of growth, incidentally, for the likes of Ola.)

Drivezy’s response has been to create a completely new supply chain for private car and two-wheeled vehicle usage. Customers include people who are not able to purchase a car, those who do have cars but would appreciate some income to help pay off the loans they took to get them, plus car companies and dealerships who are looking for new avenues and business models to shift more vehicles.

Currently, the P2P side of the business is most popular on the car side of the business, where 70 percent of the inventory has been listed by private owners, while only 35 percent of the two-wheelers come from private owners (all the P2P vehicles get a “fitness check”. Most of the rest are listed by asset financing companies through SPVs on a revenue sharing basis, with less than two percent on Drivezy’s own books. These, the Sengupta said, have been purchased to meet licensing obligations in India.

While Drivezy has definitely benefitted from useful market conditions — low vehicle ownership and a rapidly growing, tech-savvy middle class with disposable income and more reasons for travelling — now the plan will be to take its model to other markets, including both those that have similar conditions to India’s, as well as those that are more developed (and hence, more competitive).

That will include the US, where the company is planning on setting up its first pilots in April to test demand in different markets and market segments, Sengupta said. While it’s a very different market — and certainly more competitive when you consider the likes of Getaround, Turo, Fair and others — Drivezy (its founders having spent time there going through Y Combinator and Google’s accelerator) thinks that there is a gap in the area of microlending and the fact that even with a lot of options already, there can be more.

“People have an aspirational needs, they want better cars, BMWs and Audis for example, and there are no companies tackling the issue of bringing the cost of renting these models down,” Sengupta said. Considering that there is also a burgeoning market for scooters in the country, that could also be an area where Drivezy will get involved.

The pilot/expansion in the US will come alongside building and hiring for an innovations lab in the country, a pattern that Drivezy will also be following when it expands in Asia as well. Other countries where it plans to go this year, he said, include Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

It’s not often that you hear about startups out of India expanding to the US, so that in itself (in my opinion) is a great story about how the gravitational pull of the tech world has indeed shifted away from Silicon Valley. Ultimately, the international expansion to North America and other markets will serve a dual purpose for Drivezy. Not only will it help the company grow business, but it’s putting the company on the map, and that too will help attract more funding attention.