Domino-effect insolvencies in EVs
Apr 19, 2013
Most electric vehicle sectors are profitable and growing. Toyota has nearly half of the $63 billion global market for electric vehicles land, water and air, according to an IDTechEx analysis in the new report, Hybrid and Pure Electric Vehicles for Land, Water and Air 2013-2023: Forecasts, Technologies, Players. Over 4400 manufacturers crowd into the other half of the market for hybrid and pure electric vehicles, 66% of them being in China and mainly making e-bikes, a sector which IDTechEx finds is currently beginning a shakeout with manufacturers going under and sometimes taking parts suppliers with them.
By contrast, Toyota's electric forklifts and buses pull in profits and its hybrid cars, if not yet profitable, will be the first to achieve profits in volume because it makes more hybrid cars than all other manufacturers combined. In a different world, the global market of pure electric cars has profits only as a very distant prospect, with the exception of some very special niches. That is why Toyota has only a nominal presence in pure electric cars. Every year, romantics grossly underestimate the cost of entry and offer questionable or non-existent uniques in the pure electric cars they design. There is no Apple-like "must buy" inspiration and innovation with the possible exception of Tesla at the top end.
When, every year, manufacturers of pure electric cars go under, they can take others, such as small parts suppliers, with them - a domino effect takes place, though, only rarely can one say that a manufacturer pulls down one supplier on its own. For example, Asola Solarpower of Germany makes the conformal, high efficiency crystalline silicon solar roof for the Fisker Karma premium car. Now it is experiencing financial difficulties, though its insolvency administrator sees good opportunities for redevelopment via a realigned business plan.
Asola's customer Fisker is also in deep trouble after quality problems and poor reviews of its Karma car. Fisker's landlord has now filed a suit that says the electric car company has to pay its April rent or evacuate its headquarters.
Fisker laid off 75% of its staff recently and was then served with a class action lawsuit for allegedly failing to give those employees 60 days (the WARN Act). Fisker's founders were asked to attend a hearing on April 24 in Washington D.C., organized by House Republicans. Fisker drew down on close to $200 million in a government loan from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program. Fisker also raised $1.2 billion in funds over the company's five and half year lifetime. Fisker was backed by venture firms Kleiner Perkins and NEA, and worked with now-defunct broker Advanced Equities. In part, it was tipped into trouble by quality problems with its traction battery made by the now bankrupt A123 Systems Inc - now renamed B456 Systems Inc.
A123 has just reached a settlement in which Fisker Automotive Inc. reduced its claims by 89% to $15 million. The accord with the bankruptcy's unsecured-creditors' committee will substantially cut Fisker's $140 million in claims stemming from a rejection of its supply agreement and alleged breach of warranty obligations, according to court documents filed April 2 in Wilmington, Delaware. A123 Systems received a $249.1 million federal grant, so the US Government is in talks with them too, not least because the Chinese have acquired the non-military assets - the bulk of the company.
Leading analysts IDTechEx forecast that the growth in the modest market for pure electric on-road cars will eventually take off, probably from 2020 onwards. For full details see www.IDTechEx.com/ev. Only then will we see a halving in battery prices partly because of a vicious shakeout of the 200 suppliers of lithium-ion batteries in the world, up from 150 today.
Also driving the eventual lift-off in pure electric cars will be reaching acceptable range with affordable versions and maybe Apple-like innovation. Wide deployment of uneconomic "lifeboat" charging stations (we may never use them but we want to know they are there) will cease to be an issue. Even then, the success of mainstream pure electric cars will be at the small end with medium and large pure electric cars not price competitive with internal combustion versions within the coming decade.
Car-like vehicles in developing countries that are not homologated, taxed or insured like a car are a completely different matter. Their success is today. New ten year forecasts for each type of electric vehicle are available from IDTechEx Research which has the world's widest range of reports on electric vehicles - see all the reports at www.IDTechEx.com/research/ev. The IDTechEx Research reports also cover the key enabling components and systems, most of which are changing radically, creating new business successes for those that avoid the domino effects on the way. For more details see www.IDTechEx.com/ev.
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