Like a zombie from the grave, Mullen Automotive’s electric sports car grift lives once more. Earlier this week, the Southern Californian company announced that it had resolved its contract disputes with Chinese manufacturer Qiantu and would begin to “re-design” and “re-engineer” the DragonFLY K50 platform for sale in the United States.
On the surface (or if you just read the press release) this would seem to be excellent news for the Californian EV startup. But the saga of the Mullen/Qiantu partnership is long, and in the context of their shared history, the deal’s terms look considerably less favorable for Mullen.
Back in May 2019, after months of negotiations, Mullen entered into an agreement with Qiantu. As part of that deal, Mullen agreed to buy DragonFLY K50 “kits” from the Chinese manufacturer and assemble and resell them in the United States. A short time after the deal was inked, Mullen claimed it had signed the wrong version of the paperwork, according to court documents filed by Qiantu. Instead of simply correcting the error, the documents allege that Mullen tried to use the delay to renegotiate key parts of the deal. For reasons that are unclear, Qiantu agreed to come back to the table, and a second agreement was eventually drafted with essentially the same terms, but a different payment schedule. Mullen signed the agreement and initialed every page.
The documents allege, however, that Mullen’s next move was to claim that it was again unaware of the very same revised payment schedule it had just worked to renegotiate. By August 31, 2019, Mullen had missed its very first payment to Qiantu. The Californian company would go on to default on the rest of its payments as well, despite continuing to advertise the K50 as “coming soon” on its website in subsequent months.
In October 2019, after missing its first two payments, Mullen filed a suit against Qiantu for breach of contract, again alleging that the Chinese manufacturer had sneaked in the details of the payment schedule without Mullen’s knowledge.
This suit has now been settled.
Under the terms of the agreement, Mullen will pay Qiantu $6 million, plus warrants that allow the purchase of up to 75 million shares of MULN at 110% of the price of the common stock. These warrants are exerciseable for one year, starting in September 2023.
There’s also an item that stipulates that Mullen pays an additional $2 million for “deliverable items under the IP Agreement,” and another which mandates that Mullen pay Qiantu a royalty fee of $1,200 for each K-50 it manages to sell in the United States over the next five years. Finally, and perhaps worst of all for the Californian company, Mullen also agrees to buy “a certain number of vehicle kits every year from Qiantu.”
Even without the vague promise to buy more vehicles from Qiantu, the math adds up to at least $8 million that Mullen will have to pay out, not including royalties. Mullen basically went to court, wound up with the same deal, and lost millions of dollars in the process.
Making this look even worse is the fact that the K-50 is now a three-year old car. While the car still looks great and boasts some pretty legitimate specs, Mullen will still need to make sure the K-50 complies with the standards and regulations in the United States—a process that is often incredibly expensive and time consuming. So far it’s unclear how Mullen, a company that has never manufactured a production vehicle before, will tackle that challenge.
With how ragged things look from the outside, it’s hard to even predict if Mullen will exist come September.
Update: This story has been corrected to provide a more accurate description of the financial terms of the settlement between Qiantu and Mullen.
- What is Going on with Mullen Automotive’s Latest Scheme? ›
- Mullen Automotive Increases Authorized Common Stock From 1.75 Billion Shares to 5 Billion ›
- Mullen Automotive Stock Rebounds After a Series of New Deals ›
- Is 'Promising News' Enough to Sustain Mullen Automotive? - dot.LA ›