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The age of the car ‘startup’ – the exciting road ahead

Paul McSweeney 14 April 2020
car startup

We recently talked about new, up-and-coming car manufacturers like Rivian, NIO, and Rimac. It’s such a huge topic that I wanted to talk about it again. It’s an exciting time for the automotive industry and these new names are set to shake up the market.

It’s easy to be sceptical – after all, how can they take on the goliaths? We’re at a turning point and I believe the strong competition from the startups can turn the tide.


Let’s define “startup”

“Startup” is a bit of a dirty word in this context. It conjures an image of a handful of people working in a garage. Most of the newcomers are well beyond that point in their journey. Rivian has over 750 employees. NIO has already seen strong sales. Everyone has been recruiting industry veterans.

Startup is meant in the literal sense – that they are just getting started. Most of them only have one model in the market if that – plenty aren’t launching for another couple of years. That’s what makes the whole scenario so exciting. These are fresh ideas coming from people who know and love cars. They aren’t beholden to corporate oversight or a money-hungry board of investors. The passion runs through the entire team, not just a select few.

They could define the future of the industry, joining in on the success of Tesla. And, in some ways, I think what they deliver could be even better.


A bit of competition

Competition is always good for the consumer. Companies challenge each other to be better. Would we be seeing this mass adoption of electric vehicles by manufacturers if it weren’t for the ones who dipped their toes in first?

These startups are bringing a new dimension to the competition. People aren’t as brand loyal these days. There’s more of a focus on the new “it” car if anything. These new cars are appealing to the mid-range market in a number of ways; they’re better for the environment while also being a fashion statement.

Look at the fervour over Tesla. This puts pressure on the big-name manufacturers to try to appeal to that same market. Whether they do this in their environmental-friendliness, looks, or technology – probably a mix of all three.


The drive toward EVs

These cars are also pushing us further down the path of electric vehicles. I’ve talked before about where I think the market will go, and I see a greater push towards EVs while combustion engines take a back seat. It won’t happen tomorrow, but it’s coming, and the startups are leading the charge.

We can already see the effect; every manufacturer has laid out its EV strategy. Plenty have released a car already. It’s a necessary change as we see the public look favourably on the tech. For younger generations, EVs will be the norm. And if they keep it up, the startups will be too.


New (and old) blood

Another great thing about the startups is the voice it gives to a new generation of designers. They don’t necessarily have to be young; they could be industry veterans who finally have the means to make themselves heard. Rivian’s intro video to who they are sums it up – they’re making cars that they would want to see.

Peter Rawlinson, CEO and CTO at Lucid, is an industry veteran who has already done his part for the car startup. He was the chief engineer of the Tesla Model S and has now set out on a new venture with the luxurious looking Lucid Air.

It’s an environment that promotes new ideas and that can never be a bad thing. It can only lead to greater innovation in this industry. That’s what makes it such an exciting one – it is ever-evolving. I personally cannot wait to see where these companies go. When they have more financial backing and have their first project out of the way, where will they go? That question is what puts me on the edge of my seat. And I can’t wait to see what happens.

Paul’s passion for all things cars isn’t unique at REALTIME. Our automotive team loves cars – see for yourself. If you have a project then we want to hear about it. Get in touch at [email protected].