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EXCLUSIVE: ElectraMeccanica's CEO On US Assembly Plans, Tesla, Driving SOLO

EXCLUSIVE: ElectraMeccanica's CEO On US Assembly Plans, Tesla, Driving SOLO

The landscape of electric vehicles has changed dramatically.

At the turn of the century, electric vehicles seemed like a thing of the future, but earlier this year, Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) surpassed Toyota Motor Corp (NYSE: TM) as the most valuable car company in the world. 

Adding to the momentum, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order calling for a ban on the sale of all new gasoline-powered passenger vehicles in the state in 2035. 

These milestones send a clear message to the world: the future is electric. 

But Tesla isn’t the only company making waves in the EV space. Another well-known company on the rise, and with a different vision than its EV counterparts, is Electrameccanica Vehicles Corp (NASDAQ: SOLO) and its flagship SOLO vehicle. 

ElectraMeccanica's Niche: Instead of competing with other traditional full-size cars, ElectraMeccanica decided to carve out a niche segment in the EV space.

The SOLO entered production Aug. 26 and is exactly what it sounds like: a one-seater vehicle meant to fulfill the needs of drivers who don’t need much space.

“We are not trying to compete with Tesla,” ElectraMeccanica CEO Paul Rivera told Benzinga in an interview. 

Tesla is usually seen as the gold standard of EVs, so it’s not uncommon to see investors using the company helmed by Elon Musk as a benchmark. 

Tesla and ElectraMeccanica operate in different spaces, though, and could even be seen as complementary vehicles. 

“What’s really different about this vehicle is it’s designed to solve urban driving challenges. What makes us unique is that this single-occupant vehicle is not like any other vehicle out there.”

The question ElectraMeccanica poses to drivers is why they need to drive a vehicle with three or four empty seats. 

“If you’re driving solo right now in your daily activities, then drive SOLO,” Rivera said. 

The SOLO Experience: Being a one-seater, it’s safe to say the SOLO offers a different driving experience.

“When you’re driving this car, it's just you, and you’re focused on the road,” Rivera said. 

The car helps eliminate driving distractions by dint of its design, potentially making it safer for newer drivers who may be easily distracted.

Before going into production, the SOLO went through a number of design changes with safety and driving experience in mind, ElectraMeccanica's CEO said. 

“Occupant safety is the No. 1 concern for me, our executive team and our board of directors,” he said. 

Some of the design changes included reengineered front steering geometry and electronic power steering; improvements to thermal performance; more side impact protection; torque limiting stability; a rollbar; and more.

“You get one chance to get it right, and for us it was worthwhile to take a step back and make sure we get it right.” 

ElectraMeccanica's US Assembly Plans: U.S.-China tensions are high, which can leave American companies with relationships in China caught in the crossfire of economic retaliation between the two nations.

ElectraMeccanica is partnered with Zongshen in China to help assemble SOLOs.

“We’re very concerned about the U.S.-China relationship. It’s one of the driving factors into the reason we’re looking to build a U.S. assembly operation,” Rivera said. 

An assembly operation in the United States would make distribution easier regardless of U.S.-China tensions, he said. 

“We have a great partner in China and I envision our Chinese partner can help us supply vehicles to the rest of the world.”

Many countries have mandates to phase out gas-powered vehicles within a few decades. Zongshen could help ElectraMeccanica supply Europe and southeast Asia as they expand into other markets, Rivera said. 

ElectraMeccanica has narrowed down the potential locations for a U.S. assembly operation to Arizona, Tennessee or Florida, he said. 

Assembly in the U.S. would do the following, the CEO said: 

  • Mitigate tariffs from China.
  • Take advantage of a global supply chain.
  • Tap into a local U.S. talent base.
  • Build out an engineering tech center.
  • Take advantage of the U.S. logistics on transportation.

As technology continues to advance and automakers continue to push out new products to help satisfy the diverse, growing demand for EVs like Tesla’s full-sized sedan Model S, ElectraMeccanica’s urban-oriented SOLO and Nikola Corporation's (NASDAQ: NKLA) Tre semitruck, the sector is bound to receive more attention and interest from consumers and investors alike.

Courtesy image.


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