Two months after a Canoo co-founder and CEO resigned, the Torrance-based company is looking to bounce back with plans to build an Oklahoma manufacturing plant and clinching a European contract for its electric vans.
Chairman and newly instated CEO Tony Aquila announced Thursday at Canoo's "investors day" that the company has secured a contract manufacturer in the Netherlands to begin assembly of the first 1,000 Canoo Lifestyle Vehicle vans in late 2022.
Canoo also announced plans to build a plant in Pryor, Oklahoma where its vehicles will be assembled and eventually exported. It's targeting 15,000 units in 2023. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt was in attendance at the event, which was held at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.
"Let me tell you, Oklahoma is a step above Texas," Stitt joked while on stage with Aquila, who has a ranch in Texas.
The plant will be on 400 acres and about 45 minutes from Tulsa and four hours from Canoo's executive hub in Texas. The company received a $300 million incentive package from the state of Oklahoma.
A working prototype of the company's customizable electric vehicle platform was driven onto the stage before the speakers appeared. Its frame will underpin Canoo's van and pickup, allowing them to share most of the same components, despite having different bodies.
The basic model of the company's Lifestyle Van starts at less than $35,000 and rises to nearly $50,000, before EV incentives.
Much like Manhattan Beach-based Fisker's agreement with Magna Steyr in Austria, Canoo is looking to its contract partner not only to produce its cars, but guide them on the manufacturing process as well.
Its Dutch partner VDL Nedcar in Born operates in a plant built in 1967 that was once owned by Volvo and then Mitsubishi Motors. Since the manufacturing's parent company VDL Groep took over the facility in 2012, the plant has signed a deal with BMW Group to produce various BMW and Mini models. That agreement is set to expire in 2024.
"Nedcar can build as many as 100,000 vehicles for Canoo if needed,'' Aquila said, but added that the partnership is primarily to get the first deliveries fulfilled and learn the manufacturing processes needed for the Oklahoma factory.
Canoo also has plans to sell its vehicles in Europe, where electrification has been more broadly embraced, thanks to mandates and incentives in countries such as Norway and Germany. Aquila said the van could be available in some European countries shortly after the first Nedcar-built models are produced, and that vehicles would eventually be exported from the United States facility.
Canoo will face stiff competition from Ford. The automaker unveiled the F-150 Lightning pickup truck, an electric version of the best-selling vehicle in the country, last month. Prices for it are expected to start at about $41,000.
Like Fisker, Canoo hopes that after-sales parts, constant over-the-air software updates to keep vehicles fresh for second or third owners, and resales will generate significant revenue.
Canoo has gone through a series of changes since it went public last year in a $2.4 billion SPAC deal. A 2020 agreement with Hyundai Motor Group to cooperate on vehicles based on Canoo's platform was effectively declared dead in March, with Aquila telling investors it would get out of the contract engineering business and primarily focus on products for commercial users.
Aquila brought in a raft of new executives, including some former Daimler and Mercedes-Benz USA officials, and Peter Savagian, who worked on the General Motors EV1 project in the 1990s. But the sudden leadership and business plan changes prompted the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission to open an investigation into Canoo, which Aquila revealed a month ago.
Rumors of a collaboration with Apple also came to nothing. Canoo co-founder and former CEO Ulrich Kranz, previously of BMW and Gardena-based Faraday Future, took a job at the Cupertino tech giant this month to shore up the car project.
Aquila acknowledged the consolidation that will eventually occur with EV startups as the market gets saturated with plug-in vehicles. He hopes the new team that's been assembled will keep the company nimble and efficient.
"Consolidation is going to happen, he said. "I like to buy companies but I don't like to be bought."
Canoo shares were down Thursday by 2.65% to close at $9.93.
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Metropolis CEO Alex Israel said there were times during the pandemic where the startup's future didn't seem certain. On Wednesday, he talked about the last year and the future of mobility during dot.LA and CoMotion's Motivate SOCAL conference, dedicated to highlighting early-stage mobility startups in the region.
Israel's Los Angeles-based startup aims to make parking easy in car-clogged cities across the country. Metropolis uses AI technology to read drivers' license plates as they enter a parking lot, then charges them via an app, giving them a "touchless parking experience."
The startup raised $41 million in Series A financing earlier this year. It has parking garages throughout the U.S., in cities that include Los Angeles and Nashville.
When the pandemic prompted businesses to close their doors and remote working took hold, parking structure demand plummeted.
"I think the net result of that on my business at the time, we're thinking April 2020... Armageddon," said Israel. "I mean absolute chaos, collapse, and panic." But the pandemic didn't dissuade investors. Metropolis raised a $41 million Series A round earlier this year.
COVID may have shut down offices, but it also made the touchless parking process like the one Metropolis offers more appealing to consumers. Owners of parking garages and real estate investors were also drawn to it for its efficiency and low-cost solutions, Israel said.
"Nostalgia for the Future"
Israel thinks Metropolis can create "nostalgia for the future."
"What you see when people use our product is this moment of surprise and delight, and it's this sentiment of, 'Wait, why wasn't it [always] this way? Why couldn't I seamlessly pay for parking? Why did I even have to fumble with tickets?" he said.
Israel argues that dominant industries block this by failing to adopt new technologies. He pointed out the relationship between the archaic taxi industry and the newer rideshare industry as an example.
"I think you see very similar trends within parking. You've had a very entrenched industry that has moved in a very standard way for a very long time, making money in a very standard way," he said. "There are players that are forward thinking and interested in innovation, but in general, the industry as a whole has not been interested in innovation because it's been antithetical to their core business model."
Uber and Lyft's successes have added to the discussion on mobility, he said. And he expects autonomous vehicles to do the same. He thinks prices on the cars will be low, making them a "mass equalizer." He said time will tell whether such vehicles will add to traffic or make transportation faster.
"I think it'll be exciting, but we'll have to wait a long time before we see that true shift, and we see less traffic, and a real, true impact on how we move around cities," he said.
Four years ago, Bird Rides Inc. boldly began parking its first-generation e-scooters on the sidewalks of Santa Monica even though it lacked the proper permits.
What started as a novelty has now become a $800-billion worldwide business, with the devices now ubiquitous throughout the world. The scooters also became one of the most visible symbols of Santa Monica's booming and carefree tech scene, with top VCs scootering into the office with the ocean air blowing through their hair.
But as Bird prepares to go public via a blank check acquisition, the company is facing the embarrassment of being kicked out of its hometown this summer just as the tattered micromobility business recovers from pandemic lockdowns.
With a population of less than 100,000 residents, Santa Monica is not a financially important market for Bird. But the clashes it has had with city regulators are emblematic of what it has encountered worldwide after expanding to more than 150 cities.
Even though Santa Monica's transportation department was authorized by the City Council to permit four scooter operators, it chose just three – Spin, Veo and Lyft – for the next phase of its shared mobility pilot program, which lasts from July 1 to March 30, 2023. Bird placed fourth.
Bird declined to make anyone available for an interview but in a statement sent to dot.LA, it indicated it plans to appeal the decision.
"We are disappointed by the current recommendation for the next phase of the Santa Monica Micromobility Program and look forward to taking the opportunity to further demonstrate Bird's commitment to the city during the comments and objections process," the company said.
Bird has not filed an appeal as of Monday but has until May 26 to do so, according to Constance Farrell, a spokeswoman for the city.
Santa Monica transportation staff made their selection based on 10 different criteria. Bird was dinged for affordability, customer service, durability, safety and maintenance/ operations.
It performed well in the local preference category, though Bird received the same ranking as Lyft, which is based in San Francisco.
Bird also originally did not make it into the city's first e-scooter pilot in 2018 but was later added back in because of its hometown presence, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press, which was first to report Bird's pending removal.
Though Bird is still based in Santa Monica, its presence has been greatly diminished over the past year. It laid off half of its employees there last year as the pandemic ground worldwide ridership to a halt and put its airy headquarters up for sublease in October.
Bird has had a rocky relationship with Santa Monica, ever since deploying its scooters there in 2017, before it received the city's permission.
"We felt we were in a gray area," Bird founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden said at the time.
The city disagreed and sued, contending e-scooters were endangering local residents and visitors. Bird signed a plea agreement with Santa Monica in 2018 and paid $300,000 in fines. It also agreed to bring down maximum speeds from 21mph to 15mph.
"With this agreement, Bird and VanderZanden acknowledge that they failed to comply with the City of Santa Monica's business licensing requirements which are designed to protect the safety of the public," Deputy City Attorney Eda Suh said in a statement announcing the settlement.
As part of going public, Bird revealed last week it has been involved in more than a hundred lawsuits involving "brain injuries, internal injuries, and death," many of which are still pending.
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