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Voltpost wants to bring curbside EV charging to a lamppost near you | TechCrunch

If you own a single-family home, driving an electric vehicle can be a transcendent experience. Every morning, when you wake up to a world full of possibilities, your car will be fully charged and ready to take you wherever you need to go.

But EV life isn’t nearly so rosy if you don’t have access to a garage or a driveway.

Many EV owners in big cities are forced to rely on public fast chargers. Some people have taken to stringing cables from their homes to the curb, which can pose safety hazards. Some cities, like Cambridge, Massachusetts, have formalized the practice, allowing people to receive permits to install wheelchair-friendly cable protectors that span the sidewalk. It’s an experiment that emulates some of the convenience that single-family homeowners enjoy, but it’s a temporary solution, at best.

The lowly lamppost might be a better option: They’re everywhere, and they have all the wiring needed to make curbside charging seamless. One startup from New York City, Voltpost, has been working on a product that retrofits existing street lampposts to enable EV charging. On Thursday, it introduced its lamppost charger after a year of design and development.

The device is essentially a shroud that covers the lower part of the pole, containing all the electronics and cables required to charge two to four EVs at Level 2 speeds. It’s not fast charging, but it’s more than enough for most people to top off overnight.

An illustration of the main components of Voltpost’s lamppost charger. Image Credits: Voltpost

Voltpost’s charger docks at hand level on the lamppost shroud, and the retractable cable has an anchor eight feet up to keep it off the ground. The design is modular, the company said, to make repairs and upgrades easier. Charge station managers get access to custom software that will allow them to control pricing and remotely monitor the devices.

As is the case with just about every EV charger network, there’s an app to oversee charging sessions, including payments. Drivers can also use it to reserve chargers, an interesting twist on “dibs” or “savesies” that will certainly be a convenience for drivers but could cause some friction among neighbors.

Voltpost said its chargers are quick to install, taking an hour to complete the process in a test with the New York City Department of Transportation. It also said that it has projects in various stages of development and deployment in New York, Chicago, and Detroit. The startup most recently raised a $3.6 million seed round in July.

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Exclusive: Faraday Future faked early sales, lawsuits claim

Two internal whistleblowers at Faraday Future claim the troubled EV company has been lying about some of the few sales it has announced to date. They also claim founder Jia Yueting has “weaponized” the EV startup’s HR department to retaliate against anyone who speaks up about these alleged misrepresentations.

The employees, Jose Guerrero and Victoria Xie, have made those claims in a pair of newly filed lawsuits against Faraday Future and Jia — as well as the company’s head of HR, Nan Yang — in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging wrongful termination, breach of contract, and infliction of emotional distress.

Both lawsuits also highlight what has been the central tension of Faraday Future: that its founder, Jia, allegedly continues to assert control over the company despite having been sidelined in 2022 as the result of an internal probe.

The previously unreported suits come as Faraday Future has continued to furlough and lay off employees to save what little cash it has left, to the point that it was nearly evicted from its Los Angeles headquarters after it missed multiple lease payments. This is all happening while the company is facing active investigations from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice.

“FF takes the allegations made in these two lawsuits by previous employees very seriously,” a spokesperson for Faraday Future said in an emailed statement. “FF believes on merit it has strong defenses to the alleged claims and will pursue all avenues and remedies available to protect and defend itself and the Company’s dedicated employees against all allegations including character attacks.”

Jia, in an email to TechCrunch, said: “I believe that there are numerous false statements and defamatory allegations in the said complaints. I plan to file counter-lawsuits against the parties involved.”

Guerrero and Xie, through counsel, declined to comment beyond the allegations in the filing.

Allegations of faked sales and retaliation

In an internal whistleblower letter submitted to the company’s general counsel on December 6, 2023, Guerrero and Xie claimed that Faraday Future lied about the first four publicly touted sales of its electric SUV, the FF91.

Guerrero, who was a senior director of sales and aftersales at Faraday Future, and Xie, who was the company’s “go-to-market project manager and launch manager,” say that the company announced these deliveries before the sales process had been completed. They claim three of the four were never fully paid for, at least at the time the whistleblower letter was submitted, and the fourth was only paid for “more than 60 days after the ‘sale’ was announced.” Faraday Future has since claimed to have delivered 10 vehicles in all of 2023.

Guerrero and Xie claim that when sales staff pushed back against these “premature” announcements, the leadership team in Jia’s department “continued to cite the need to announce sales to boost the Company’s share price and subjected staff who raised compliance concerns to retaliatory HR actions.”

Guerrero and Xie go on to claim that Faraday Future executed these sales agreements with its initial customers without performing pre-delivery inspections on the vehicles, and that one of Jia’s lieutenants dismissed concerns about this. They say the sales team was pressured to submit DMV paperwork “without the required insurance and cash payments.” They also claim Jia’s team was sending “non-road approved software” to these early customer cars and that they were not properly documenting or disclosing the software’s release notes to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in potential violation of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act.

What’s more, they claim Faraday Future has been performing repairs on these early customer vehicles without proper documentation or work authorization, which he says could put the company’s license with the California Bureau of Automotive Repair at risk.

“When [Defendant Mr. Jia] and his trusted circle inquired about regulatory requirements, it was done so with the clear intention to ‘creatively’ circumvent the rules,” they claim in the lawsuits.

Xie says in her complaint that she was fired “in retaliation for her protected whistleblowing” just two days after the letter was submitted, and claims Jia and Yang were directly involved in her firing. Xie attempted to file an arbitration claim against the company on December 22, according to the complaint. But Faraday Future didn’t pay the required arbitration fees and missed the 30-day window to do so, thus making it possible for her to file a lawsuit in Superior Court, the complaint claims.

Faraday Future allegedly fired Guerrero on January 18 in retaliation for speaking up, according to his complaint. He, too, filed an arbitration claim against the company, and when Faraday Future did not pay the fees, he was similarly free to file a lawsuit in Superior Court.

Jia’s control over Faraday Future has always been a thorny issue. As previously reported, Jia secretly ran the company in its earliest years despite the company listing someone else as its CEO on paper. He did ultimately take over as CEO, but he brought in a former BMW executive to fill that role in 2019 in order to appeal to investors. The company ultimately went public in 2021 by merging with a special purpose acquisition company.

Jia was reprimanded as the result of an internal probe that began in late 2021. That investigation looked into claims from a short-seller that Faraday Future had overstated the number of preorders for its vehicles, as well as a lack of proper disclosures around the founder’s movement of money in and out of the company. In 2022, people close to Jia helped lead a boardroom coup all while being investigated by the SEC and the DOJ.

Jia is still not CEO, but Guerrero and Xie claim in their lawsuits that he “heads a shadow organization” that controls the company’s destiny. They say he and his trusted lieutenants meet at one of the mansions he purchased on the Pacific coastline nearly every week.

“All major operational decisions within key functions of the businesses, including human resources, budget allocations, vehicle release, and the financial services, are directed and approved by Jia,” they claim in the lawsuits.

You can read Guerrero’s lawsuit here, and Xie’s lawsuit here.

This story has been updated with a comment from Faraday Future and from founder Jia Yueting. 

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Lucid Motors ekes out a new delivery record as it searches for more EV buyers | TechCrunch

Lucid Motors delivered more EVs in the first quarter of 2024 than it has in any other quarter, though it set the record by a very slim margin.

The Saudi-backed, California-based electric vehicle company said Tuesday morning that it shipped 1,967 luxury sedans in the quarter. That’s just a few more than it shipped in the fourth quarter of 2022, when it set its previous record of 1,932 deliveries. The company said it built just 1,728 sedans in the first quarter, though, meaning it will need to boost production in the coming quarters if it intends to meet its modest guidance of making 9,000 EVs this year.

Lucid’s new delivery record comes as the company is struggling to find consistent demand for its pricey luxury sedan, the Air. The company is still months away from starting production on its upcoming Gravity SUV, so it is banking on discounts, increased marketing efforts and a more affordable trim of the Air to sustain things until it can ship that new model. In the meantime, it recently turned back to Saudi Arabia to raise another $1 billion to fund what is otherwise still a money-losing business.

Lucid is not alone in its struggles. Rivian also started 2024 on a somewhat flat foot, building and shipping roughly the same number of vehicles in the first quarter as it did in the final term of 2024. These companies are trying to establish themselves in a rapidly changing market, where Tesla has consistently slashed prices and large automakers have scaled back their most ambitious plans to release all-electric vehicles en masse.

While Lucid set a new high mark for itself in the first quarter, it did not say how many of the deliveries were of the most-affordable version of the Air sedan, which it started shipping late last year. The company also said last year that it began shipping the first vehicles to Saudi Arabia for final assembly — the first step in a plan to sell as many as 100,000 vehicles to its majority owner. But it has not specified how many Air sedans have made it to the Kingdom to date. The company will only have the ability to assemble, at most, 5,000 vehicles in Saudi Arabia until a full production plant comes online in a few years.

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Robotic Automations

TechCrunch Mobility: Apple layoffs, an EV price reckoning and another Tesla robotaxi promise | TechCrunch

Welcome back tTechCrunch Mobility — your central hub for news and insights on the future of transportation. Sign up here — just click TechCrunch Mobility — to receive the newsletter every weekend in your inbox. Subscribe for free.

Automakers reported auto sales for Q1 and, welp, turns out that pricing sure does matter if you want to sell EVs. Who would have thought? A recent survey by Edmunds comes to a similar conclusion (at least for American buyers), finding a big gap between what consumers want and what is actually available on the market.

Here’s the crux. According to the Edmunds survey, 47% say they are seeking an EV purchase below $40,000, and 22% are interested in EVs priced below the $30,000 threshold. Today, there are no new EVs priced below $30,000 and only four below the $40,000 mark. The average price of an EV in 2023 was $61,702, while all other vehicles stood at $47,450.

This mismatch of realities is squeezing automakers as they try to move inventory by slashing prices. This downward pressure has forced automakers like Ford to delay future EV launches and put more resources toward hybrids. Even Tesla, a bellwether in the EV world, fell well below analysts’ expectations with deliveries down 20% from Q4 2023. Meanwhile, EV upstart Rivian posted tepid results.

What’s the answer? Well, over at Tesla, it seems the solution is twofold: slash prices again and try to capture revenue through sales of its Full Self-Driving software that costs $12,000 and is currently being offered in a free one-month trial to all customers.

OK, folks, let’s jump into the rest of the news!

A little bird

Founders, investors, engineers, policy wonks and others tell us things. And we’re here to pass along the verifiable information that those little birds have shared with us.

This week, a little bird tipped us on the closure of Ghost Autonomy, which had raised upward of $220 million and recently partnered with OpenAI. A couple of calls, emails and a fresh posting on the company’s website confirmed the tip. About 100 people were affected.

As I noted in my article, Ghost has pivoted a few times since it was founded in 2017. When I asked founder and CEO John Hayes what happened, he said the company had completed a highway driving product and was moving in urban environments through what he described as “last-mile delivery.”

“Ultimately, the years required to bring the product to market could not be financed,” he wrote to me in an email.

Got a tip for us? Email Kirsten Korosec at [email protected] or Sean O’Kane [email protected]. If you prefer to remain anonymousclick here to contact us, which includes SecureDrop (instructions here) and various encrypted messaging apps.

Deal of the week

Startup founders, listen up — a new fund just closed. Get your slide decks ready.

Maniv, the Israel and now NYC-based VC firm, raised a $140 million fund with plans to stick to its early-stage investment strategy of backing startups at the intersection between mobility, transportation and energy.

As I noted in my longer feature, the firm’s approach has evolved a bit by expanding geographically and diversifying its investor base. The firm has also largely stopped using the once trendy umbrella term “mobility” (often leaving it out of its original name Maniv Mobility) and has opted instead to talk about deep tech, decarbonization and digitization of the transportation sector.

Investors in the fund are no longer dominated by automakers and Tier 1 suppliers. Instead, Maniv has opened up to a broader swath of strategic and institutional financial investors, including BNP Paribas Personal Finance and the venture arms of Shell and Enterprise Mobility.

The Maniv III fund also includes return investors Valeo and Jaguar Land Rover venture arm InMotion Ventures. Toyota Motor Corp.’s Woven Capital, vehicle leasing company Arval, transportation infrastructure giant Ferrovial, the industrial manufacturing firm ITT Inc., fleet payments business WEX and an unnamed European insurance company also participated in the fund.

Other deals that got my attention …

Alsym Energy, a Massachusetts-based startup developing nonflammable battery chemistry, raised $78 million in a Series C round led by General Catalyst and Tata, the Indian conglomerate, with participation from Drads Capital, Thomvest and Thrive Capital.

BlaBlaCar, the French carpooling and bus ticketing company, secured a €100 million revolving credit facility ($108 million at today’s exchange rate).

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Waymo and Uber expanded on an ongoing partnership that will affect Uber Eats’ customers in the metro Phoenix area. Now when folks order a burrito or a pizza or some other treat through Uber Eats, they may have their meals delivered by a Waymo vehicle. The tie-up will begin with select merchants in Chandler, Tempe and Mesa, including restaurants like Princess Pita, Filiberto’s and BoSa Donuts.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

Apple is laying off 614 employees in California after abandoning its electric car project. According to the WARN notice posted by the California EDD, most of the affected employees were working at buildings related to its canceled car project, while others were working at a facility for its next-generation screen development, Bloomberg reported.

Canoo finally reported its Q4 and full-year earnings. Tucked inside the regulatory filing is a nugget regarding the use of CEO Tony Aquila’s private jet — just one of many expenses that illustrates the gap between spending and revenue at the EV startup. Tl;dr: Canoo spent double its annual revenue on the CEO’s private jet in 2023.

Faraday Future narrowly avoided an eviction from its Los Angeles headquarters. The company reached an agreement with the owner of the building, Rexford Industrial, to stay at the facility as long as it meets a few conditions. If Faraday violates any of the terms, Rexford has the right to trigger a 48-hour demand for payment and can boot the startup if it doesn’t pay up. If Faraday Future makes its payments, it can stay in the building until September 2025 when the lease expires.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a third investigation into Fisker’s Ocean SUV, this time centered on problems getting the doors to open.

Tesla is reportedly abandoning its plan to build a lower-cost EV thought to cost around $25,000, according to Reuters, despite that vehicle’s status as a pivotal product for the company’s overall growth. Apparently, Tesla will instead focus on a planned robotaxi that is being built on the same small EV platform that was also supposed to power the lower-cost vehicle. This is where it gets a bit silly. Just hours after Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Reuters was lying, he posted on X that the Tesla robotaxi would be revealed August 8. Go figure.

This week’s wheels

This week’s wheels is taking a one-week hiatus while I enjoy a bit of vacation time. But don’t worry, it’s back next week and I have a few vehicles lined up, including the Mercedes-Benz EQE 350 4Matic sedan, a Lexus LC500 hybrid and a Mercedes eSprinter. Plus, some e-bikes will soon be in the mix.

What vehicles — including the two-wheeled variety — are you interested in reading about? I’ll put them on my list.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Elon Musk says he'll unveil a Tesla robotaxi on August 8 | TechCrunch

Just hours after Elon Musk claimed Reuters was “lying” about Tesla’s plans to ditch its $25,000 low-cost EV and instead focus all its efforts on a robotaxi, the Tesla CEO announced on X that he would reveal said robotaxi in an event on August 8.

The announcement comes as Tesla EV sales have lagged and profits have fallen, leaving the company and its CEO on a search for another product to boost sales — or at least the stock price.

Earlier Friday, a Reuters report citing three anonymous sources and internal documents said that Tesla was abandoning its plan to build a lower-cost EV and would instead focus resources on a planned robotaxi that is being built on the same small EV platform that was also supposed to power the lower-cost vehicle.

Musk took to X, the social network he owns, and claimed without proof, that Reuters was “lying.” He did not dispute any specific details.

Hours later, Musk posted on X that a “Tesla Robotaxi” will be unveiled August 8.

Reports have swirled for years that Tesla was working on these two vehicles. But Musk has wavered on whether to prioritize a typical car or one with no steering wheel or pedals, despite not having yet produced a fully autonomous car, according to descriptions in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Musk.

The CEO  pushed back in mid-2022 against his engineers’ insistence on referencing a car with a steering wheel and pedals. And even as he pressed ahead, lead designer Franz von Holzhausen and engineering VP Lars Moravy kept the more traditional car version alive as a “shadow project,” Isaacson wrote at the time.

Musk has been promising autonomous capabilities in Tesla vehicles for years. In 2016, he said Tesla would drive itself cross-country by the end of 2017 (it didn’t happen). In 2019, he promised to launch the company’s first robotaxis as part of a broader vision for an autonomous ride-sharing network in 2020 (that also did not happen). A few years later, he said a dedicated robotaxi with no steering wheel or pedals would come to market by 2024.

Tesla vehicles come standard with a driver-assistance system branded as Autopilot. For an additional $12,000, owners can buy “full self-driving,” or FSD — a feature that CEO Elon Musk has promised for years will one day deliver full autonomous driving capabilities. Tesla vehicles are not self-driving. Instead, FSD includes a number of automated driving features that still require the driver to be ready to take control at all times, including the parking feature Summon, as well as Navigate on Autopilot, an active guidance system that navigates a car from a highway on-ramp to off-ramp, including interchanges and making lane changes. The system is also supposed to handle steering on city streets.

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Tesla reportedly drops plan to build $25K EV | TechCrunch

Tesla is reportedly abandoning its plan to build a lower-cost EV, thought to be priced around $25,000, according to Reuters, despite that vehicle’s status as a pivotal product for the company’s overall growth.

The company will instead focus its efforts on a planned robotaxi that is being built on the same small EV platform that was supposed to power the lower-cost vehicle.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed, without proof, that Reuters is “lying” in a post on his social media platform, X, and did not dispute any specific details. He also responded with an eyes emoji to another post that effectively summed up the Reuters report in different words.

Tesla has reportedly been working on these two vehicles for a few years. But Musk has wavered on whether to prioritize a typical car or one with no steering wheel or pedals, despite not having yet produced a fully autonomous car.

Musk first teased the idea of a truly low-cost Tesla in 2020. But by early 2022, he said Tesla had stopped work on the car because it had too much else to do.

That didn’t last long. The project spun back up, but the company and its CEO were split on whether it should be a typical car or a futuristic robotaxi.

In Walter Isaacson’s recent biography of Musk, he described the CEO pushing back in mid-2022 against his engineers’ insistence on referencing a car with a steering wheel and pedals. “This vehicle must be designed as a clean robotaxi. We’re going to take that risk, it’s my fault if it fucks up,” Isaacson quoted Musk as saying. A few weeks after that, Isaacson said, he quoted Musk saying the robotaxi will “transform everything” and make Tesla a “ten-trillion [dollar] company.”

But even after all that, Isaacson wrote that lead designer Franz von Holzhausen and engineering VP Lars Moravy kept the more traditional car version alive as a “shadow project.” In September 2022, Isaacson wrote, Moravy and von Holzhausen made the pitch to Musk that they needed an inexpensive, small car in order to grow at Musk’s stated goal of 50% per year. They also laid out the plan to use the same platform to power both distinct models.

Musk still said, according to Isaacson, that the $25,000 car was “really not that exciting of a project” — despite it being the ultimate goal of his famed original “master plan” for Tesla. But by early 2023, Musk had agreed to move forward with the plan laid out by his lieutenants.

That plan is now in question as Reuters cites internal documents showing that work has stopped on the traditional car project in favor of the robotaxi approach.

Things have changed since Musk agreed to that plan in 2023. Isaacson’s book explains that Musk’s reason for trying to spin up a factory in Mexico had to do with wanting to make both vehicles there. But Musk quickly pivoted to building the two vehicles in Texas instead. Musk has since told investors that Tesla has backed away from going “full tilt” in developing the Mexico plant in part because of high interest rates. And Tesla has spent the last year slashing prices on its best-selling models in an effort to stay competitive in China and maintain its huge advantage over the competition outside of that country.

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Tesla slashes Model Y inventory prices by as much as $7,000 | TechCrunch

Tesla is dropping prices of unsold Model Y SUVs in the U.S. by thousands of dollars in an attempt to clear out an unprecedented backlog of inventory.

Many long-range and performance Model Ys are now selling for $5,000 less than their original price, while rear-wheel drive versions are seeing even bigger cuts of more than $7,000.

The discounts come as Tesla once again made far more vehicles than it sold in the last quarter. The company built 433,371 vehicles in the first quarter but only shipped 386,810, likely adding more than 40,000 EVs to its inventory glut. (Some of those vehicles were likely in transit, though Tesla didn’t say how many.) The company has built more cars than it shipped in seven of the last eight quarters, Bloomberg News noted Friday.

In January, Tesla warned sales growth could be “notably lower” in 2024 compared to previous years — a trend that has bothered every player in the market from big automakers like Ford to struggling upstarts like Lucid.

Tesla went through a typical end-of-quarter push to deliver as many cars as it could over the last few weeks, with lead designer Franz von Holzhausen once again pitching in to get them out the door in the final days. But Tesla also tried to boost sales in other ways. It announced a $1,000 price hike was coming to the Model Y, its most popular vehicle, on April 1. Tesla CEO Elon Musk also started mandating demos of the company’s advanced driver assistance system to all potential buyers. That software package costs $12,000 and can be a huge boost to the profit Tesla makes on a vehicle.

Musk has more or less admitted that Tesla has had to work harder to drum up demand for its vehicles lately. He has largely blamed the struggle on high interest rates, all while his company dramatically cut prices on the Model Y and Model 3 throughout 2023.

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Tesla is laying off more than 10% of its global workforce | TechCrunch

Tesla is laying off thousands of workers as it tries to simultaneously cut costs and boost productivity, according to CEO Elon Musk.

The electric automaker is cutting “more than 10%” of its global headcount, Musk said in an email reported by Electrek and Bloomberg News. Tesla finished 2023 with over 140,000 employees, meaning the cuts could impact more than 14,000 people.

The layoffs come just two weeks after Tesla announced its first year-over-year sales drop in years, amid a wider cooling of EV sales. The company has warned investors that sales growth could be “notably lower” in 2024 than its stated goal of growing 50% each year. It’s also somewhat in between product cycles for the first time in a long time, with the expensive Cybertruck only just recently going into production and the popular Model Y entering its fourth year without any significant updates.

“As we prepare the company for our next phase of growth, it is extremely important to look at every aspect of the company for cost reductions and increasing productivity,” Musk said in the email. Tesla’s growth, he said, has led to “duplication of roles and job functions in certain areas.”

“As part of this effort, we have done a thorough review of the organization and made the difficult decision to reduce our headcount by more than 10% globally. There is nothing I hate more, but it must be done. This will enable us to be lean, innovative and hungry for the next growth phase cycle,” Musk wrote.

Tesla shipped a record 1.8 million EVs in 2023. But the company spent much of the year slashing prices on its most popular models in an effort to counterbalance high interest rates and increased global competition. Tesla reportedly dropped — or at the very least, delayed — plans to build a lower-cost EV starting at around $25,000, opting instead to use the underlying platform being developed to power an alleged robotaxi that Musk said will debut on August 8th.


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Ford delays new EVs once more, showing why legacy automakers need to adopt a startup mentality | TechCrunch

Ford announced Thursday that it’s delaying the production of two electric vehicles, a next-generation EV pickup and a three-row EV SUV. The pair are now slated to arrive in 2026 and 2027, delays of one and two years respectively. In their place, the automaker will be introducing hybrids across its U.S. lineup.

Ford’s CEO has been telegraphing the delays for months. Last fall, it postponed $12 billion in planned investments. Then on an earnings call in February, CEO Jim Farley said, “Hybrids will play an increasingly important role in our industry’s transition and will be here for the long run.” That’s the sort of sober talk that shareholders love to hear.

Wall Street is likely to cheer the move, especially after Toyota reported that its year-over-year sales in the United States rose 22% on the back of strong demand for hybrids. Ford’s shift appears designed to bolster cash flow and near-term profits, something that seems logical for a company of its size, especially in times of uncertainty.

But here’s the thing: Ford is unusual among established automakers in that it performs best when thinking like a startup, something it appears to have taken to heart more recently, EV delays notwithstanding. It succeeds better when it shapes the market than when it responds to it.

Most recently, that startup mentality was on display with the Mustang Mach-E, Ford’s all-electric crossover. When the EV started taking shape nearly a decade ago, the original plan was to build a perfectly sensible crossover powered by an electric motor at the front. The design was aerodynamic, but so uninspiring that one of the company’s exterior designers questioned who would buy it. Judging by the look of the proposed design, those doubts were understandable.

But then-CEO Jim Hackett scrapped the plan and gave the team just two years to come up with something new. The result was a crossover that has helped Ford claim second place in U.S. EV sales for several quarters in a row.

The Mustang Mach-E wasn’t a fluke. Ford has a record of pulling rabbits out of the hat. In the 1980s, when American automakers were getting shellacked by Japanese imports, Ford ditched its boxy, heavy designs and conjured up the Taurus, which went on sale in late 1985. The sleek, roomy and affordable car was unlike anything American consumers had seen, and it was an immediate hit. Ford sold 1 million of them in the first three years, a success that likely saved the company from bankruptcy.

Five years later, Ford again pivoted with the introduction of the Explorer. SUVs were nothing new, but at the time most were two-door models focused on utilitarian qualities like towing and off-roading. Cars remained the dominant choice among consumers. But by adding rear doors and a raft of creature comforts, Ford transformed the SUV into a family-friendly hauler. It might have cannibalized sales of the company’s cars, but the decision to launch the Explorer proved prescient: Not only did it power another decade of growth for the company, it predicted a world where SUVs dominated the market.

There are other examples, too: Ford used a fast-and-lean approach when developing the original Mustang, allowing it to define an entirely new category of fast, expensive “pony cars.” It did the same after World War II when it produced what’s now known as the ’49 Ford, a car that broke with styling conventions and pushed the automaker back into the sales lead. And don’t forget the original Ford assembly line, which while not a product, was definitely a product of entrepreneurial thinking.

Farley faces different challenges today. His predecessors were basically mixing and matching designs, platforms and manufacturing techniques while the heart of each of those vehicles, the engine, remained largely the same. Electric vehicles challenge manufacturers to start with a clean slate, or at the very least rip out that heart without losing what made the original vehicle so great.

Ford has excelled at those tasks: The Mustang Mach-E and the F-150 Lightning are by most accounts not just excellent EVs, but excellent vehicles overall.

Still, they haven’t been the runaway successes that Ford expected. That’s in part because they were too expensive — price cuts have proven there’s still demand for them — and also because the charging infrastructure to support them remains underdeveloped. If charging is preventing Ford from selling more EVs, maybe it needs to address the problem head on. And if it can’t price its EVs competitively and still make a profit, maybe Ford needs to find a cheaper way to manufacture them.

The company has already started down the path, forming a skunkworks led by ex-Tesla executive Alan Clarke to develop a low-cost EV. If the team succeeds in bringing a product to market, some of that startup spirit might be alive at Ford after all.

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Fisker's Ocean SUV investigated for doors that won't open | TechCrunch

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a third investigation into EV startup Fisker’s Ocean SUV, this time centered on problems getting the doors to open.

The NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) says in a new notice that it has received 14 complaints from owners who have not been able to open the doors to their Fisker Oceans, either from the inside or the outside. The agency says the complaints point to an “intermittent failure” of the door latch and handle system. The complaints also raise the possibility that the emergency override mechanism also does not work.

Customers have reported getting stuck in or out of their car to Fisker for months, according to internal documents that TechCrunch exclusively reported on in February. Some of those incidents were related to the Ocean’s troublesome key fob. But the new safety probe suggests a deeper problem with the SUV’s doors. The investigation is designated as a “preliminary evaluation,” which ODI typically resolves within eight months.

The Ocean SUV is already being investigated by ODI over problems with its braking system, and for complaints about the vehicle rolling away on uneven surfaces. The company has not issued any recalls for the Ocean. Fisker told TechCrunch it is “fully cooperating with NHTSA on this matter.”

The third probe is being opened as Fisker is on the brink. It paused production of the Ocean in March and reported just $121 million in the bank. Fisker is still sitting on thousands of Ocean SUVs in inventory that it is struggling to sell, either directly or through its nascent dealership model, and recently slashed prices by up to 39% in a desperate attempt to generate sales. It was recently removed from the New York Stock Exchange. A potential partnership with Nissan fell through, endangering an attempt at securing $150 million in rescue funding.

This story has been updated to include a comment from Fisker.

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