VW taps Rivian in $5B EV deal and the fight over Fisker's assets

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Am I the only one whose head is spinning from all of the transpo news this week? Reminder, it’s only Thursday morning. Let’s jump in!

Oh wait, before I do that, one housekeeping item: We will not have a newsletter next week due to the July 4 holiday. See ya July 11!

A little bird

blinky cat bird green
blinky cat bird green

A little bird reached out to let us know that Cruise recently cut 35 employees. Cruise did confirm the cuts and added some important context. These were described as routine role eliminations and not layoffs — the latter typically being conducted for financial reasons. And yes, we know this is a small cut (just 1% of their workforce) compared to the 24% round of layoffs at the end of last year. Still, we’re paying attention to all the goings-on over at Cruise.

Separately, Cruise announced a reorganization to employees that will bring the company’s safety functions under Chief Safety Officer Steve Kenner and to integrate two teams (customer success and remote assistance). This reorg is part of the company’s ongoing investment in safety, according to the company.

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money the station
money the station

I’m going to put the Rivian-Volkswagen Group tie-up in the things-I-didn’t-expect-in-2024 bucket. It is a whopper of a deal and a curious one at that.

Here’s what we know so far. The deal is supposed to give VW access to Rivian’s existing electrical architecture and software platform. Meanwhile, Rivian will get some of that sweet VW cash and manufacturing expertise that would presumably help the EV company reduce its costs.

This deal has the potential to bring $5 billion into Rivian’s coffers. But initially, VW Group will invest $1 billion into Rivian via an unsecured convertible note that will convert into Rivian’s common stock once certain regulatory approvals are received. That’s expected to happen in the fourth quarter of this year. VW Group will then buy another $1 billion of Rivian’s common stock in 2025 and 2026. The remaining $2 billion will go to the joint venture, split between an initial investment and a loan in 2026.

That joint venture will be a 50-50 partnership with co-CEOs, who will report into both Rivian and Volkswagen Group. Rivian will share its electrical architecture expertise with VW and is expected to license existing intellectual property rights to the joint venture.

There is so much more to learn here, so stay tuned as we report this story out.

Other deals that got my attention …

Aether Fuels, an e-fuels startup working on producing fuel for aviation and maritime shipping, raised $30.4 million of a $34.3 million round, according to a public filing.

Bitsensing, a South Korea-based startup developing 4D imaging radar, raised $25 million in a Series B round.

Fetcherr, a startup founded in 2019 that provides infrastructure for dynamic pricing systems used by airlines, raised $90 million in a Series B funding round led by Battery Ventures.

Getir, the food delivery startup, will undergo a restructuring that includes Abu Dhabi’s wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company investing $250 million into the company and acquiring majority control of its Turkish grocery operations, the Financial Times reported.

SkyCell, a Swiss startup that developed hardware and software to transport pharmaceuticals, raised $116 million in a Series D round. SkyCell is now valued at $635 million, the company told TechCrunch.

Wisk Aero, a subsidiary of Boeing, acquired Verocel, a software verification and validation company that’s been serving the aerospace industry for 25 years. Terms were not disclosed.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

If I were a betting woman, I might wager that Cruise will be back on San Francisco streets by the end of 2024. Why? A few developments are starting to point in that direction.

For one, Cruise agreed to pay a $112,500 fine to California regulators for failing to provide full information about an accident involving one of its robotaxis last year. And it also appointed Marc Whitten, a video game veteran who was most recently CTO at Unity, as its CEO.

Project 3 Mobility, the Croatia-based autonomous vehicle startup spun out of Rimac Group, announced a new name, Verne — as in Jules Verne — and some details around the enterprise. Verne was founded by Mate Rimac and two close friends from Rimac Group, Marko Pejković, who is now CEO of Verne, and Adriano Mudri, the designer of Nevera and chief design officer at Verne. The plan is to launch an electric autonomous two-seater vehicle designed for urban environments and equipped with Mobileye tech by 2026, starting in Zagreb, Croatia, where Rimac Group is based.

Uber Freight and Aurora Innovation announced a multi-year collaboration that will see Aurora’s autonomous driving technology offered on the Uber Freight network through 2030. Read more to learn about the ins and outs of this deal.

Waymo has removed the waitlist for its San Francisco robotaxi service, giving anyone the ability to download the app and then immediately hail one of its robotaxis in San Francisco. Nearly 300,000 people have signed up for the waitlist since last year.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

Bankruptcy proceedings for Fisker are shaping up to be as eventful as the EV startup’s last year. One of the more eyebrow-raising admissions:  It seems that Fisker was facing “potential financial distress” as early as last August. For context, that’s the same month Fisker held a “Product Vision Day” event to promote multiple new models in development, including a low-cost EV and an electric pickup truck.

Meanwhile, a fight over Fisker’s assets is already charged, with one lawyer claiming the startup has been liquidating assets “outside the court’s supervision.” At issue is the relationship between Fisker and its largest secured lender, Heights Capital Management, an affiliate of financial services company Susquehanna International Group.

Software, apps & in-car tech

CDK, which makes customer management software for car dealerships and auto shops to handle their customer and vehicle records, is still sorting out the damage from back-to-back cyberattacks. The problem is wreaking havoc on the 15,000 car dealerships and auto shops around the U.S. that are reliant on the company’s software. The company says it will take “several days” to sort out.

Stellantis’ AI chief, Berta Rodriguez-Hervas, has left the automaker, Automotive News reported.

This week’s wheels

bugatti tourbillon-main
bugatti tourbillon-main

I didn’t get a chance to drive this particular vehicle, but wow, I have to share what I saw up close. I’m talking about the Bugatti Tourbillon, the successor to the Bugatti Chiron and the first vehicle to come out since the merger with Rimac.

The Bugatti Tourbillon is special for a number of reasons — and not just because of the 3.8 million euro base price or that only 250 will be built. I would argue that this Bugatti encapsulates what luxury will look like in a future digital age.

There are no giant screens inside, a modern detail that seems to be a requirement in every new car these days. Instead, the capstone of the plush interior is the instrument cluster, which was designed and built with help from Swiss watchmakers. The instrument cluster, which contains more than 600 parts and includes gemstones like sapphire and ruby, is fixed in place as the steering wheel rotates around it.

Then there is the drivetrain. Bugatti ditched its famous quad-turbo 8.0 W16 and instead created a naturally aspirated V16 engine and electric powertrain with three electric motors. The vehicle contains a 25 kilowatt-hour battery pack that provides about 60 to 70 kilometers of range (37 to 43 miles). Rimac Group founder and CEO Mate Rimac noted that it’s “decent all electric range if you need it, especially to make the car future proof, in case, in some areas, you will not be able to run with a combustion engine at all.”

So forget the screens and the apps. You won’t find them here. Instead, innovation and tech look more like art.