Here’s Why DeLorean Isn’t Really Back

Delorean Alpha 5 Top Shot 2

Big news: DeLorean isn’t back with a new car. I mean there is a new DeLorean, but it kind of isn’t a DeLorean. Confusing, right? Let me first show you what the DeLorean Motor Company has announced, then I’ll explain what’s going on.

The DeLorean Motor Company of Texas has collaborated with famed Italian design house Italdesign on a future electric vehicle called the Alpha 5. It’s claimed to do the 0-60 mph dash in 2.99 seconds (reaching much?) and have a range of more than 300 miles from a 100 kWh battery pack. Not bad. However, it does look a bit weird, for reasons I’m about to show you.

DeLorean Alpha 5 doors open

Yes, those enormous gullwing doors are portals to four seats, basically the philosophy of the DMC-24 that never went into production. It’s a neat idea but I’m not so sure about the execution. Let’s face it, those doors are probably heavy as hell, so hopefully the two visible gas struts supporting each door are up to the task. The presence of four seats also means a more sedan-like roofline, so there’s no real hope of a low sports car profile here. Add in a few pastiche details like the rear window slats, blacked-out tail, and mid-body character line, and you get a design that looks a bit frumpy. I’d gladly swipe the massive turbine wheels and put them on something else though.

[Editor’s note: I think the car looks rather sleek, but I agree that it’s clearly a big machine. -DT]

Honestly, I’m holding out on declaring the Alpha5 an actual car until someone outside of the company has driven it. After all, Jay Leno’s driven a Canoo prototype, CNET Cars has driven the Faraday Future FF 91, so I’ll need to see some wheel time to be convinced that this startup EVs isn’t vaporware as startup EVs tend to be. Any announcement of a new vehicle from a company with no mass-production experience should be approached with caution.

Mind you, potential vaporware isn’t the issue at hand. Look, it wouldn’t be a DeLorean without a bit of controversy, except this time it’s a question of legacy and ethics rather than entrapment. Kat DeLorean Seymour, John’s daughter, made an Instagram post on Sunday, and she definitely doesn’t seem pleased with folks throwing around her father’s name in the wake of the Alpha 5’s debut.

Kat DeLorean Seymour Statement On Alpha 5
Screenshot: Instagram

“@deloreanmotorcompany Is not John DeLorean’s Company. DMC is not 40 years old, and not associated with the DeLorean Family, or my father’s ongoing legacy,” she writes. “Please top lying and stop speaking about John now, he despised you.”

Ouch, that’s pretty scathing, but of course, some of it we’ve learned over the years to be true. See, the DeLorean Motor Company of Texas was founded in 1995 as a servicing center for DeLoreans, subsequently acquiring a whole bunch of new-old-stock DeLorean parts. It has about as much to do with the original DeLorean Motor Company as Polaroid B.V. has to do with Polaroid Corporation. Sure, the name is the same and the trademarks are identical, but we’re talking completely different companies here. It’s not like Volkswagen bringing back the Scout by directly acquiring Navistar International.

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s registry, DMC-Texas first re-registered a DMC trademark in 1998. Wait, you can re-register trademarks? Potentially so. Legal consulting marketplace UpCounsel stated in an article, “you can re register trademark if it has been canceled or marked dead in the USPTO database. Failure to file a renewal application before the expiry of the grace period of six months from the due date results in automatic cancellation of your trademark.” In the U.S., a trademark is only good for ten years, so it seems that DMC-Texas was within its legal right to re-register DMC trademarks for its own use provided they had been canceled or marked dead. However, just because something’s legal doesn’t mean it’s not in an ethical gray area.

interior

In 2014, John’s wife Sally DeLorean filed a suit that the Houston Chronicle reported “alleges DMC-Texas never purchased or licensed the right to use any intellectual property related to the original DeLorean Motor Company.” According to legal publication FindLaw.com, a settlement was reached a year later that paid the DeLorean estate an undisclosed sum and gave DMC-Texas the rights to the DeLorean Motor Company name and trademarks. Ah. Any creative can tell you that once you’re no longer in control of your intellectual property, whatever happens happens. Your stock photograph could become a meme, your song could be used as the backing track to a boner pill commercial, your invention could be used for war crimes. That’s unfortunately just the way it goes.

Sally DeLorean learned this the hard way in 2018, when she sued DMC-Texas and Universal Pictures over what she described to King 5 News as “many years of unpaid royalties.” See, back when the famous DeLorean that we all know and love scored a supporting role in the original Back To The Future, Universal Pictures and John Z. DeLorean struck up a licensing agreement over the appearance of the car, the name DeLorean, and the DMC logo. Apparently, Universal Pictures had been paying DMC-Texas, and not the DeLorean estate the backends because the Texas-based company claimed rightful ownership of DMC’s intellectual property. According to legal publication JD Supra, the courts sided with Universal Pictures and DMC-Texas as the prior settlement granted DMC-Texas DMC’s intellectual property and the ability to license said IP.

DeLorean Alpha 5 rear

Fast forward to 2022, and this new Alpha 5 breaks cover. Even if the estate isn’t a fan, there’s not terribly much it can do about the car. However, the estate has an ace up its sleeve – it still retains all rights to anything pertaining to John Z. DeLorean, the man. Any implication that the new car is linked to John Z. DeLorean may be met with legal challenges, as they probably should be. It’s not like DMC-Texas hasn’t allegedly threatened legal action on smaller players before, in one case simply for the name of a business renting out DeLoreans. DMCTalk forum user EngineerGuY posted an official-looking cease and desist letter while claiming that DMC-Texas has given the rental business “until the 25th to respond to all their demands.” Honestly, the whole plan of re-registering someone else’s trademarks, developing a niche, and letting the licensing revenue roll in seems questionable at best.

While the Texas-based DeLorean Motor Company may do a service to the DeLorean community by offering spare parts and restoration services, something about the Alpha 5 just doesn’t seem right. Sure, it’s a DeLorean, but only in the same way that the McDonald’s Fish Filet is considered food. More importantly, the Alpha5 doesn’t carry on the DeLorean legacy in a way that John’s descendants approve. I know that people say business is business, but some things matter more than money. In short, treat this EV with caution. Just because it carries the DeLorean name doesn’t mean that it’s much different than a car from any other EV startup.

[Editor’s Note: While I agree that we should remain skeptical of this car until it actually hits production, I will note that brands are a fluffy concept. They tend to exchange hands quite often, and the owners of those brands usually rely heavily on heritage for marketing, even if the owners have absolutely no connection to that heritage. For example, Jeep — a brand that has been bought up by an absurd number of companies over the years and that is now owned by Stellantis — will market the crap out of its front-wheel drive, unibody Cherokee built on Fiat bones by trying to get customers to connect that car with a World War II Jeep. The World War II Jeep, by the way, was built by a now-defunct company named Willys-Overland (and also Ford) and it shares almost no common design traits with the Cherokee. The Lotus brand also tends to exchange hands quite a bit, and of course its new owners leverage the brand’s history to market vehicles that perhaps aren’t quite as pure and authentic to founder Colin Chapman’s original mission as he might have liked.

So the “owner has no connection with the original brand” side of this situation is not particularly new; but it’s the way in which DMC-Texas ended up with the rights to DeLorean Motor Company, and the way the founder’s family feels about it, that makes this such an interesting story. -DT]

Hat-tip to an anonymous tipster for the photos, which are official photos from DeLorean Motor Company. 
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52 Responses

  1. What I want to know is why isn’t the front badge “DMC”??

    But yeah, this isn’t totally unusual with intellectual property like branding.

    For instance, for the motorcycle fans among us, Erik Buell Racing still exists and is making (or at least selling) bikes, just entirely without his involvement. And he’s still quite alive even.

    1. Just a guess but I bet they picked the “budget” option from Italdesign. Like $10k gets you the services of an intern sifting through a pile of coffee break design sketches and adds a couple embellishments to meet the customer’s request.

      Want easter eggs and retro design cues? I’m sorry, but that will be an upcharge, sir.

  2. It’s not a bad looking car, whatever you want to call it. I agree those doors probably weigh a lot more than the average driver could lift, and if the lift system fails then people will probably be trapped in the car.

    Speaking of good looking cars, when’s the last time we heard from Adrian or the “Mystery Stylist”?

  3. It’s not a DeLorean because it’s the EV startup version of beige; just another wide GT car with weird doors that you might see one or two of on the road and then forget before the vendor sinks back beneath the waves.

  4. It’s like the “designer” tried to copy the front end of a Lucid, the rear end of a Porsche 911, and managed to fuck up both.

    And yes, this whole thing is 100% pure scam. “EV” and a “V8” and a “hydrogen” and getting ready to take “pre-orders.” Somebody should check if Elio Motors just changed their name.

  5. I’m so confused for the following reasons:
    1. Shouldn’t a DeLorean speed be measured in 0 to 88mph not 60?
    2. If I’m not mistaken wasn’t John DeLoreans car a frigging brick incapable of hitting the required 88mph in the movie.
    3. Wasn’t it also such a massive failure that John started dealing cocaine to fund this brick house?
    4. Wasn’t the DMC the equivalent of Lancia in build quality but without any success?
    5 I wonder what the estate is afraid of. Them Actually building a quality successful car? That would certainly change the legacy of John DeLorean

    1. I’m not sure if the DMC 12 could hit 88, but it’s USDM speedometer sure couldn’t. US models had speedos that maxed out at 85 MPH, they had to use a British market speedo for Back to the Future.

    2. Quick reminder from an actual incident at the site DT and JT spawned from, that cute jokes about cocaine tend to make their way back to John Z’s kids and hurt them. This man did so much for all car folks and the car that bears his name will forever be in the hearts of scifi nerds.

      The whole cocaine incident was, at best, way overblown, and at worst more of a black mark for the US law enforcement community than it was for JZD.

      Please consider refraining from such unnecessary comments unless (for some reason) you’d like to hurt folks who don’t have it coming.

      1. Just because something hurts doesn’t mean it isn’t true unfortunately. The original cars are iconic but that doesn’t stop them from being slow, crap, poor handling, and massively underpowered as well DeLorean & Chapman ripping off the British taxpayer to the tune of about £10m.

        It’s only because of the films that these cars have the following they have – not because they are actually any good.

        The whole brand ownership is always a struggle. Just look at how VW tried to make a (non-existant) link between Bugatti & Bugatti S.A.S.

      2. Yeah it made the nightly news and it was millions in cocaine. You must not know much about him because he was a piece of work even before he created his crap car. He was always about flash and no substance. Figure a real auto Ron Burgundy.

    3. Thank you. I am so tired of hearing about the DeLorean. The three most over-hyped classics in the world are this, the 64.5 Mustang, and the Jaguar E-type (at least the E-type might be charming to drive).

  6. Well, I wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers…
    It’s possible they built some lightness into those doors by using carbon fiber or some kind of honeycombed structure that would be strong and light, I suppose. I’m kind of excited to see if this comes to fruition in the next few years. I might seriously have to consider buying one if they do. Also, do those count as “billionaire doors”? Asking for Russ Hanneman. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ih1ptOguaM

  7. So it may be vaporware, so that’s my issue, is if it’s vaporware then why didn’t they go harder retro, as many have said.

    The Ioniq 5 to me looks more Delorean than this “Delorean”. The Cybertruck looks more Delorean, and one is being made, and one has at least rolling prototypes around.

    So that’s the sad thing about this, the actual brand that could own that style space(legally if not morally) has gone bland tuber shape. With the doors closed this looks more like a Fisker Karma or Model S, Lucid Air, Polestar 1, or or any larger EV Sedan, nothing striking that stands out and makes me want to drive it through a Tron-like grid world on the way to a neon lit mall arcade with synthwave blasting over the pa system as I try and beat Galaga through my shutter glasses, collar on my white sport jacket turned all the way up.

  8. Wasn’t the Delorean Motor Company of Texas at some point claiming to be involved in making reproductions of the DMC-12 under the Low Volume Vehicle Manufacturer’s Act? Whatever happened to that? How did they pivot to EV manufacturing?

  9. This is no different than VW purchasing rights to the Bugatti name, some random people purchasing the rights to the Packard name, the Spyker brand, the Detroit Electric name, and probably a few more that I can’t recall at the moment. The one thing they all have in common is that not any one of them a related to their original company/founder in any way what-so-ever.

    The car, if it actually makes it to production, is indeed a DeLorean whether you like it or not. I, on the other hand, don’t really care either way. However, if John Z’s daughter had worked to trademark the name and brand a long time ago then this would be a very different conversation right now. Her outrage at the owner of the brand may be warranted for various reasons, but she has no more say over the subject than the descendants of Walter Chrysler have over the Chrysler brand.

  10. Why you got to bring the filet of fish, with it’s steamy bun goodness, into this mess?

    Also, I really like the way the editors are adding commentary to the articles. Sometimes it adds some interesting trivia, and often, as in this case, provides a good point / counterpoint to the articles. I think healthy debate and discussion (articles or comments), is what makes sites like this so much more engaging than your average automotive news outlet.

    Really want to see some way to be notified when another user replies to your comment. That would help keep the conversation going.

    1. I also like how they take ownership of their comments as opposed to some sites where they have 5 handles and block better educated car people. I don’t know how many times I saw the same misspelling of the same words in the Author and a commenter that even when pointed the same errors continued in different posts for months.

  11. Is GM’s new Hummer not really a Hummer, then?

    I don’t get the logic in this article. Seems like the same trope of “The Mustang Mach-E isn’t really a Mustang” but in an alternate universe where there was only one model year of Mustang ever made and they were kinda crappy and didn’t sell well.

    Near as I can tell, this is a car made by the DeLorean Motor Company who owns the trademark, and it’s a wedge-shaped four seater with gullwing doors. Legally, and design-wise, this checks the boxes.

  12. Prologue:
    About 10-15yrs ago, DMC “broke up with JZD and or family” as mentioned above and they started a “company”. They started out with 4-5 “branches” located within 1-2hrs of every major metro hub. There was a SE, NE, SW, NW. I found them interesting… so I subscribed to their “newsletter”. Well, about a few years ago by and they stopped the newsletter and Operation folded in on itself.

    Now.. theyve got a bunch of yahoos joined together with what equals to Bailing Wire and Spitballs, holding a set of Legalities involving Copyright Laws and Intellectual Properties. The same type of cankersore eating MOTHERFUCKERS that screwed over Bruce Meyers (original builder of the Dune Buggy concept aka Meyers Manx = a VW motor hanging on the back end of a fiberglass tub and Aluminum Framing with Offset tires.)

    In the end…
    Apparently anyone “can build a car”… but no one (or select few) has the actual ability and capital to take it from concept into fruition.

    And that… friends, neighbors and or countrymen.. does suck.

    However… does it make it a good thing or a bad one that its going to be contract build by Magna and not assembled in the FOUR FUNNELED Steamer Vicinity of BELFAST NORTHERN IRELAND?!

    1. I also like how they take ownership of their comments as opposed to some sites where they have 5 handles and block better educated car people. I don’t know how many times I saw the same misspelling of the same words in the Author and a commenter that even when pointed the same errors continued in different posts for months.

    2. Dude this isn’t Jalopnik so please refrain from the political crap laced with swear words on a subject when everyone else is behaving appropriately. If you have real points to be made you shouldn’t be spewing vulgarity.
      A wise man once said why are you raising your voice when you should be raising your point?
      No quotes because I’m sure I got it a little wrong

  13. Is there a safety requirement that occupants should be able to exit the vehicle in the event of a rollover? Or is that just a courtesy that most modern car designs afford us? If this thing turns turtle you’re going to need a glass breaker and a filet of fish to get out through that skinny frame.

  14. Pretty sloppy on John’s part to let the trademark lapse. He renamed his snowcat company from DMC to LMC to avoid the association, but, up into the 2000s, he was trying various schemes to raise money for a new DeLorean/DMC car (including selling expensive Chinese wristwatches under the DMC brand that were supposed to fund development of the new car and guarantee buyers a place in the reservation list). The timeline means that JZD was talking to investors and fundraising for new cars using the trademarks, when he no longer actually controlled the trademarks

  15. This whole story is so weird. Mainly because, what is the point? I am not saying that they have to recycle the original design, but try to find the spirit. Imagine where the brand would be today had it not gone bankrupt. Make it stainless steel if nothing else!

    They go through the trouble of licensing the brand and they come up with a rather forgettable concept that almost feels more like an attempt at a new Saab than a new DeLorean. Actually, it would no be bad as a reborn Saab now that I think about it…

  16. “I know that people say business is business, but some things matter more than money.”

    This is one instance where I’d say this is true. Without Back to the Future and the FBI scandal, DMC would be about as memorable as Bricklin. Its wedge shape was shared by far superior cars at the time, some of them much more affordable.

    What gave the DMC-12 its mystique was its ephemerality. None of that is honored here. The Alpha5 looks like Tesla’s take on a Supra. It’s okay looking. Exactly okay. That’s the problem. Any potentially limited production car should be styled divisively, and one resurrecting the DeLorean namesake should be especially controversial.

    Some things matter more than money, and in this case I think the prosaic styling will ultimately be bad for business. If the Alpha5 ever meets the pavement, its potential buyers won’t be ordinary people, and – gull-wing doors aside – this is a very ordinary looking car. 

    The ontology behind the name might matter more if this was a better representation of a 21st century DeLorean. As it is, I think it’s for the best that this isn’t the real deal.

    1. Yeah buy a car company and do that. I bet you have a different take when it’s your millions on the line. No one even the government should piss away millions for an ill fated for the greater good fiasco.

  17. I don’t hate this as a concept.

    As the article states, the estate sold the rights to the DMC name and all other property. So this is a DMC for all intents and purposes.

    If this hits the road, the doors are probably push button and you will need a high ceiling garage.

    This also needs something to happen at 88 mph or there is a huge missed opportunity.

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