California-Based Electric Vehicle Startup ‘Alpha Motor Corporation’ Has Some Sick Designs But I’m Skeptical

Tump Ace

On today’s pre-Thanksgiving Dump (curiously larger than the post-Thanksgiving one) we have some questions about Alpha Motor Corp, a bunch of BYD news, and a French invasion of sorts.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday

Is Alpha Motor Corp Real?

Dump Ace Two

Few EV startups have captured the imagination of car journalists quite like California-based Alpha Motor with its cool ass trucks and other potential vehicles. By my count, the brand has created renders for 18 different models. What it has not created, so far as I’m aware, is a physical car.

This is an issue. This was an issue last December when The Verge interviewed Joshua Boyt, the company’s business lead, along with its head of marketing, and got some vague answers to some important questions about who the company actually is. Here was The Verge’s take on all of this:

Playing the “mysterious EV startup” can sometimes help capture some of that money. But so far, Alpha Motor is demonstrating there’s a razor-thin line between being properly cautious and intentionally muddy about what, exactly, the new company is up to.

So that was about a year ago.

It turns out that Alpha Motor is still putting out designs and the image on top of this post is the company’s latest render from the LA Auto Show. It’s not even worth naming because there are so many of them at this point and, frankly, it looks like an ersatz Mitsuoka[Editor’s Note: There’s nothing wrong with that! I’m pro-Mitsuoka! -DT]. 

Why do I bring this all up? It also turns out that the company was part of a Car Design News panel at the LA Auto Show that was happening right next to our Shrimpstravaganza. I missed it, unfortunately, because I was eating shrimp. The good news is that Alpha Motor put out a press release with most of what was said during the panel. The bad news is that I’ve never read so much marketing-speak BS in my whole life.

My kid woke up vomiting this morning and so maybe it’s put me in a bad mood but, honestly, reading this whole discussion just makes me want to join her. Here are some highlights:

Alpha is bringing together various aspects of vehicle manufacturing under a collaborative platform. We are developing synergistic communication to achieve complex tasks such as satisfying compliance.

And…

Alpha is currently developing an ecosystem to support consumer lifestyles, culture, and community. CAMP is an industry first, Collaborative Adventure Mobility Platform which represents Alpha’s unique automotive process that opens new ways to experience products and builds upon the Move Humanity™ culture of community innovation. It creates an engaging platform to streamline sharing of ideas, complete technical development, and contribute to finding solutions in sustainability.

And…

The DRIVE is Alpha’s platform where people share travel experiences and recommendations for music, entertainment, hospitality, and fashion. KINETIC is a movement to recognize family, friends, businesses, and our community at large. The people we celebrate on Kinetic enrich humanity with their dedication in culinary, art, music, hospitality, and beyond. Alpha will be announcing details for exhibitions and tradeshows in 2023.

I’m sorry, but this is going to make me Move To The Toilet™  if I have to read, or share, anymore. While this kind of Silicon-Valley-marketing-buzzword speak is not unique to Alpha Motor, it’s a lot easier to swallow from an established car company or, really, any company that’s built an actual car.

The cars they design look cool. It would be interesting if those cars came to market. Building a car is hard and patience is a virtue and all that, but this has gone on just about long enough.

Until they create a drivable vehicle or file for bankruptcy I’m not sure it’s worth anyone, anywhere writing about them again. Certainly, I cannot fathom why anyone would put them on a panel. [Editor’s Note: The company, based in Irvine, CA and started by Lexus LC designer Edward Lee, was founded in 2020, so it’s just coming out of the gate. The designs are nice, and I for one hope the company can prove Matt wrong and actually build some nice hardware at some point in the near future. The founder’s LinkedIn page reads that his goal is to “[commercialize] next generation automobiles and mobility solutions.” Even if the company doesn’t build cars, it becoming an EV supplier of sorts could be a win. (Look, as a startup founder myself, I’m just trying to be positive, here!) -DT]. 

BYD Raising Prices In China

Byd Car 2

Most of the car news out of China lately has been about foreign automakers having to slash prices in face of an economic slowdown. Mercedes cut the cost of some of the company’s EVs by as much as $33,000 and other automakers have done similar.

What’s Chinese EV-maker BYD doing after seeing a 350% increase in Q3 profits? Raising prices! In a post on the company’s Weibo this morning they announced the move, stating that the cost of sourcing battery materials and a a drop in government subsidies necessitates the increase (I’m relying on the Reuters translation).

The price increases range from 2,000 to 6,000 yuan or, approximately, $300 to $900. Given that BYD’s cars are significantly cheaper than the foreign competition this should still make the cars very competitive.

Has Warren Buffett Made $1.2 Billion On BYD Investment?

Byd Car1

In other BYD news, we’ve already reported that Berkshire Hathaway has been slowing unwinding its investment in the company and the unwinding is continuing. It’s not clear why (Warren Buffett isn’t saying) this is happening or, more importantly, if they plan to sell all of the company’s stake or just part of the company’s holdings (they still own about 16%).

CNN, however, has put together the math on how much Berkshire Hathaway may have earned from the transaction.

It’s not clear how much Berkshire has profited from the sale. But the average price of each share in the five deals disclosed by the company since August was around HK$205 ($26).

Using that average, Berkshire might have bagged a net profit of $1.2 billion by offloading the 49 million shares, assuming a purchase price of HK$8, according to a calculation by CNN Business. The conglomerate’s current stake in BYD is worth $3.9 billion, based on the latest stock price.

That sounds right. As far as investments go, this one is a doozy. Berkshire initially bought $230 million in 2008, when the global economy was in the crapper. If you take what they’ve sold and add it to what they still have that’s about $5.1 billion total or, roughly, a 20x or so return in 14 years.

Stellantis Reportedly Has Nowhere To Put Its Cars

France Alex Roy

Because there is no end to the disruption of the global supply chain by the pandemic and the war, Stellantis (specifically, Peugeot) is back to cranking out its popular 3008 and 5008s in a plant in Sochaux, France. What they can’t do is physically deliver all of them because they’re apparently running out of transportation.

From a Reuters report on the problem:

Carmakers across Europe are struggling to make shipments with a lack of truck drivers and a shortage of truck and train capacity under the combined effect of the war in Ukraine and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With several thousands of cars waiting to be sent from Sochaux, which produces bestsellers Peugeot 3008 and 5008, Stellantis has turned to an unusual solution by using a former military airfield at Lure-Malbouhans, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) away, to store them temporarily, the sources said.

There are worse places to be stuck! Above is a photo of Alex Roy in a Peugeot 504 Cabriolet V6 not too far from Lure-Malbouhans. We borrowed the car from the Peugeot Museum in Sochaux. Go visit!

The Flush

Hope springs eternal, and this is never truer than when it comes to designing cars. What’s your favorite example of a vaporware car?

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62 Responses

  1. Well that marketing buzzword is crap until you remember they are sell stock to tech millionaires. You ever listen to a programmer talk about his field. Frankly i think someone decided if you explain it so the geeks cant understand they think it is because it is genius. If they get it they say yeah i understand so probably someone else already did it. Heck they live for difficult over simplicity.

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