EV bonanza allows Karma to tap lifeline

Karma Automotive, maker of the Revero plug-in hybrid luxury car, has raised $100 million from outside investors as the company and its parent seek to tap into an electric-car stock surge by seeking an additional $300 million.
The fresh funding coincides with at least the fourth makeover for a company formerly known as Fisker Automotive Inc. since past Aston Martin design director Henrik Fisker founded it in 2007, only to leave as it headed toward bankruptcy six years later. Owner Wanxiang Group Corp., which bought the carmaker in 2014 and renamed it Karma, now aims to launch a new all-electric sedan, a supercar and plug-in delivery vans.
Hoping to capitalize on soaring valuations of EV makers such as Tesla Inc. and newer entrants like Nikola Corp. and Workhorse Group Inc., Wanxiang is selling stakes in Karma to private equity partners. The Hangzhou, China-based company is committed to Karma and sees the boom in EV-maker shares as an opportunity to attract other investors, said Pin Ni, president of Wanxiang’s U.S. business.
“Karma has real production, real technology and real dealers,” Ni said in a phone interview. “Look at Tesla’s value and you see Workhorse with their stock going up ten times recently.”
Karma will continue sales of the plug-in Revero after delivering 500 units last year, and it plans to sell the 560-horsepower Revero GTE battery-powered sedan by late spring next year, said Karma Chief Strategy Officer Greg Tarr. The GTE will offer around 300 miles of driving range. After that comes a supercar for wealthy buyers based on its SC1 concept that may boast as much as 1,100 horsepower.
Tarr said it’s a turnaround job, but he and Ni denied a recent report from the website Jalopnik that Karma was on the verge of bankruptcy. Ni said Wanxiang has invested “a couple of billion dollars” of its own money since taking over the automaker. Karma was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan of up to $10 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration, but Tarr said they never took out the loan.
To help cover its investment costs, the automaker plans to leverage its EV platform by selling it to other manufacturers. The company said it will offer its drive motors, suspension, steering, battery and electrical and other systems.
Karma’s longer-term goals include developing fully-electric delivery vehicles as well as hybrid versions that run on gasoline or diesel. By raising cash from investors in the U.S., company officials seek to reduce Chinese ownership below 50 percent, which would make it easier to win government fleet contracts.
“Investors aren’t rewarding you for just being a sports-car company,” Tarr said.
Karma is working on a deal with a commercial truck developer on a delivery vehicle and plans to have a prototype by the end of the year, Tarr said. If it does wade into the commercial EV market, Karma faces formidable rivals such as Rivian Automotive Inc., which is backed by Amazon.com Inc. and Ford Motor Co., as well as Workhorse, General Motors and Germany’s Daimler AG.
“The market will be pretty flooded with electric trucks,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal research analyst at Guidehouse Insights. “There will be a lot of competition.”
Karma is confident the field is still plenty open for the growing business of delivery vans. “No one is going to buy from just one company,” Tarr said.
Source: autonewscom

Congress created coronavirus aid, then some lawmakers benefited

WASHINGTON — At least a dozen lawmakers have ties to organizations that received federal coronavirus aid, according to newly released government data, highlighting how Washington insiders were both author and beneficiary of one of the biggest government programs in U.S. history.

Under pressure from Congress and outside groups, the Trump administration this week disclosed the names of some loan recipients in the $659 billion Paycheck Protection Program, launched in April to help smaller businesses keep Americans employed during the pandemic. Connections to lawmakers, and the organizations that work to influence them, were quickly apparent.

Among businesses that received money was a California hotel partially owned by the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as a shipping business started by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Car dealerships owned by Republican Reps. Roger Williams of Texas and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania benefited.

Four car dealerships owned by Kelly received $600,000 to $1.4 million. Mike Kelly Automotive Group, Mike Kelly Automotive LP and Mike Kelly Hyundai and Kelly Chevrolet-Cadillac, all near Pittsburgh, received the money. A spokesman for Kelly said he wasn’t part of the loan application and isn’t involved in the operations of the dealerships, in accordance with ethics rules.

Williams, one of the wealthiest lawmakers with a net worth of over $27 million in 2018, received a loan for his Roger Williams Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership in Weatherford, Texas. Williams is president and CEO of JRW Corp. of Fort Worth, which is listed as receiving a loan of $1 million to $2 million. “Like every other company who accepted a small business loan, our business qualified under law and regulation, and today over 100 of our employees are grateful that we did,” Williams said in a statement.

At least five car dealerships owned by the husband of Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., also received loans, each ranging from $350,000 to $1 million, the data show.

Car dealerships in general were major recipients of PPP money. As reported by Automotive News, retailers of new and used vehicles received between $7.6 billion and $11.9 billion — recipients totaled 12,693 new-car dealerships, which is about three-quarters of the U.S. total dealerships. In addition, just under 2,000 used-car dealers received payments totaling as much as $1.5 billion.

Together, the money is credited with saving 746,000 auto-dealership jobs.

According to the Small Business Administration, the $660 billion PPP has helped preserve 51 million jobs nationally.

Fast-food franchises owned by Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., received money. So, too, did a law firm owned by the husband of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and the former law firm of Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., which employs his wife.

Money also flowed to a farming and equipment business owned by the family of Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., and a regional casino company led by the husband of Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev.

Members of Congress and their families are not barred from receiving loans under the PPP, and there is no evidence they received special treatment. Loans were granted to Democrats and Republicans alike, something President Donald Trump’s campaign was quick to highlight when records showed donors to his campaign coffers were among the earliest beneficiaries.

Hundreds of millions of dollars also flowed to political consultants, opposition research shops, law firms, advocacy organizations and trade associations whose work is based around influencing government and politics.

While voting, lobbying and ultimately benefiting from legislation aren’t illegal, advocates say the blurred lines risk eroding public trust in the federal pandemic response as Congress begins debating yet another round of coronavirus relief.

“It certainly looks bad and smells bad,” said Aaron Scherb, a spokesperson for Common Cause, a watchdog group that was also approved for a loan through the program.

As of June 30, the Treasury Department program had handed out $521 billion to industries including manufacturing, construction, restaurants and hotels.

Treasury identified just a fraction of the total borrowers Monday, naming only companies that got more than $150,000. Those firms made up less than 15% of the nearly 5 million small companies and organizations that received assistance.

Many of the lawmakers connected to loan awards emphasized they weren’t part of the application process.

A spokesperson for Pelosi said her husband, Paul, is a minority investor in the company that owns the El Dorado Hotel in the wine-country town of Sonoma, Calif. Paul Pelosi has a 8.1% stake in the company, valued at $250,000 to $500,000, Pelosi’s office said.

“Mr. Pelosi is a minor, passive investor in this company,” said the Democratic speaker’s spokesperson, Drew Hammill. “He was not involved in or even aware of this PPP loan.” The firm, EDI Associates, is listed as a recipient of a loan between $350,000 and $1 million.

New York-based Foremost Maritime Co., founded by Chao’s parents and run by her sister, was cleared for a loan valued between $350,000 and $1 million. McConnell, a Republican seeking reelection in Kentucky, said Tuesday: “Neither my wife, nor I, have anything to do with that business and didn’t know anything about it.”

The Shaheen & Gordon law firm in Dover, N,H., got a loan of $1 million to $2 million. The firm is owned by Jeanne Shaheen’s husband, William Shaheen. A title company partially owned by William Shaheen got a $160,000 loan and a half dozen companies he partially owns or another relative owns got loans, below $150,000.

Jeanne Shaheen said she “was not involved in any way in applying for those loans nor do I have anything to do with their businesses, and Congress had no role in processing PPP applications.”

Other lawmakers, while distancing themselves from the loan process, sought to portray the PPP program as a success story.

Hern’s Tulsa-based KTAK Corp., a management company for several McDonald’s restaurants, received $1 million to $2 million. Hern isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations, but “he is happy to share that the family business was able to keep all employees either at their current level of employment or move part-time employees to full time,” Hern’s chief of staff, Cameron Foster, said. Four businesses owned by fellow Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., received at least $800,000.

Full House Resorts, a Las Vegas-based casino company led by Lee’s husband, Daniel, got two loans totaling $5.6 million, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company said the funds would be used to rehire several hundred employees and prepare to reopen two casinos in Indiana and Colorado.

A spokesperson said Tuesday that Lee did not know about the company’s intention to apply for a loan when she and other Nevada lawmakers pushed for a rule change to allow small casinos to receive the loans. She had no influence over the application or any aspect of Full House’s business or decision making, spokesperson Jesus Espinoza said.

Two wineries tied to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and an Iowa farm run by his family received loans worth at least $2 million. The wineries got separate loans worth $1 million to $2 million, and an Iowa dairy farm that is tied to his relatives received $150,000 to $350,000.

Source: AutoBlog.com

‘Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown’ announced as third installment in racing video game series

Video game publisher Nacon hosted a virtual press conference to reveal some of its upcoming titles, and one of them revives a series that has always shown lots of promise: “Test Drive Unlimited.” Not only that, but it has a motorcycle racing simulation game on the way. However, neither title came with many details as they’re each a ways out from release.

“Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown” is certainly the biggest news, as it will be the third in a series that last had a release in 2011. The teaser trailer doesn’t reveal much except close-ups of candy-colored supercars and a well-dressed human. Past installments of the game have focused on living the lifestyle of the super rich, racing supercars, buying luxury properties to store them, dressing up in designer fashions and exploring exotic locales. The first “Test Drive Unlimited” took place in a nearly 1:1 re-creation of Oahu, and the second added the island of Ibiza. They were fun fantasy simulators that sweated little details, which is why we wanted to see the series make a return someday. According to Nacon and game developer KT Racing, a part of Kylotonn, this installment will again have a real-life location, and it will again be an island. We’re also excited to see that KT Racing is involved, since they’ve done an admirable job with the “WRC” rally racing game series. Past “Test Drive” games developed by Eden Games and published by Atari had some strange driving physics.

The other game being announced is “RiMS Racing,” which is a motorcycle racing sim. Very little was revealed about the title other than it having realistic physics, licensed bikes and famous roads and race tracks. RaceWard Studio is developing the game, and they don’t seem to have any titles to their name yet besides this new one. Apparently it will be built using a game engine created by aforementioned KT Racing, which besides “WRC” also developed “Tourist Trophy: Isle of Man” and that game’s direct sequel.

We’ll have awhile to wait for each of these racing games. “RiMS Racing” is slated for next summer, and “Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown” is early enough in development that it doesn’t have a release date at all.

Source: AutoBlog.com

U.S. probes fuel leaks in GM’s older Chevy Cobalt and HHR vehicles

The U.S. auto safety agency on Tuesday disclosed it has opened an investigation into complaints of fuel leaks in older Chevrolet Cobalt compact cars and HHR wagons, manufactured by General Motors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said the investigation, which was opened on Sunday, covers more than 614,000 vehicles from 2008 to 2010 model years.

“The fuel leaks are the result of corrosion of the metal fuel lines underneath the vehicle towards the rear and in the vicinity of the left rear wheel well,” the regulator said after it received 208 complaints of fuel leaks from vehicle owners.

NHTSA said there were no reports of fires or injuries from such leaks, and it was probing the scope and severity of the potential problem to assess any possible safety issues with the vehicles.

GM said it will continue to cooperate with NHTSA in the investigation.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Harbor Freight jack stand recall: Now the replacement stands are also recalled

In May, Harbor Freight recalled more than 1.7 million Pittsburgh-branded three- and six-ton jack stands that could collapse due to a manufacturing flaw. The flaw on those stands came from worn dies in the manufacturing process, which stamped out worn ratchet teeth that wouldn’t engage sufficiently. Harbor Freight issued gift cards to customers, which some shoppers used on replacement jack stands. The following month, a customer put his replacement stand under a Volkswagen Golf, and that stand failed due to what looked like a welding issue on the legs. Harbor Freight said it would investigate the matter, and in a letter to customers, founder and CEO Eric Smidt said the company “identified a welding defect in a small number of the Pittsburgh 3 ton steel jack stands that replaced the recalled jack stands.” So Harbor Freight has added another set of jack stands to the first recall.

The May recall covered three- and six-ton stands with item numbers 56371, 61196, and 61197. This expanded recall adds the three-ton stand with item number 56373.

The company wants to do more than merely swap parts, it wants to earn its customers’ trust back. That could take time and money, Harbor Freight having failed twice with components that are potentially deadly. Smidt’s ready to spend the money, it seems. In his letter, he wrote that the company investigated all of its Pittsburgh three-, six-, and 12-ton steel jack stands and didn’t find the defect, but, “Although none of these other jack stands are being recalled, if you own any of them and have any concern whatsoever, please bring them back and we’ll give you a full cash refund or store credit for those as well.”

If you own any of the recalled stands, stop using them immediately and get them back to Harbor Freight. And perhaps keep an eye on enthusiast chat boards for word on the replacement stands that replace the first replacement stands.

Source: AutoBlog.com

2021 Nissan Frontier prototype spied on the road

The 2021 Nissan Frontier has been spotted on the road this week, wearing thin, form-fitting camouflage that flatters a new design that heralds the pickup’s first comprehensive redesign in a decade and a half. 

Nissan has already confirmed several details of its redesigned 2021 Frontier pickup, even going so far as to tease its powertrain in the current (and soon to be outgoing) model, but the 2021 model year is going to be the real deal: a ground-up redesign of a model that has been relegated to a value proposition after years of seemingly inert development. 

That all changed over the past year, when Nissan confirmed its timeline for the Frontier’s replacement, and gave us a whopping preview of what is in store for the new truck by introducing its new 3.8-liter, 310-horsepower V6 and 9-speed automatic transmission in the existing model. It is now the most powerful factory engine available in the midsize segment. 

Thanks to Nissan’s own teasers, we already had a decent idea of what the new Frontier would look like. The front nose no longer slopes downward when viewed in profile, appearing like most upright truck faces do these days. Two proud twin strips of LED lighting bring it up to date with a signature look, and the hood features multiple muscular lines. Viewed from the side like this, we’re getting Toyota Tacoma vibes from its blocky shape and brawny lines.

Nissan has promised that the new Frontier will offer levels of comfort and refinement already available from the rest of its U.S. competitors, and the company even acknowledged that it may be time to offer a performance-oriented model. The Frontier was originally expected as a 2021 model with a launch happening sometime later this year, and first deliveries expected around February of 2021. Whether the global health crisis has altered that timeline remains to be seen, but we expect Nissan will want to get the word out about its new truck as soon as possible.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

Farfus returns to WEC and Le Mans 24 Hours with Aston Martin Racing

BMW factory driver Augusto Farfus will make a return to the World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours with Aston Martin.The Brazilian, who contested both editions of Le Mans encompassed by the 2018/19 WEC superseason with BMW, has been recruited to drive the British manufacturer’s factory-run GTE Am entry for the final three events of the 2019/20 series by car owner Paul Dalla Lana.Farfus will share the #98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE with Dalla Lana and Ross Gunn at Spa in August, Le Mans on September 19/20 and then the Bahrain finale in November.He is replacing long-time Aston Martin Racing driver Darren Turner, who will focus on development of the marque’s Valkyrie road car over the remainder of this year.Farfus will also contest the second round of the European Le Mans Series at Spa on 9 August, a week before the WEC event at the Belgian track, alongside Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda, who drove the #98 car in the WEC in 2015-2018/19.Dalla Lana, 2017 WEC GTE Am champion with Lauda and Pedro Lamy, said: “I’ve been friends with Augusto for a long time, and we’ve wanted to race together for a while, but it’s only now that a break in his programme has allowed us to do this.”John Gaw, managing director of Aston Martin Racing, added: “Paul has chosen to recruit Augusto Farfus to race with him and we look forward to welcoming him to the team.”Farfus’s primary programme with BMW this season is racing with the Walkenhorst team in the Intercontinental GT Challenge.Le Mans this year will be his fifth assault on the French race.Aston’s regular GTE Am WEC entry will race in the opening two rounds of the 2020 ELMS.Dalla Lana, who will contest the first round at Paul Ricard on July 19 with Gunn and Lauda, said: “I’ve really missed competing on the track, and getting the opportunity to put in extra competitive miles in the ELMS is really exciting.”The ELMS presents a tough challenge, and the races are long enough to test our skills and our systems as we prepare to return to WEC.”Aston has stressed that three-time Le Mans class winner Turner will make a full-time return to the race track in 2021.Did you know…Augusto Farfus isn’t the first BMW driver to race an Aston Martin Racing entry at Le Mans.Marque stalwart Bill Auberlen drove a Vantage with Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy at the French enduro in 2013.He and the Canadian were regular teammates in the Grand-Am series at the time aboard a BMW M6 silhouette racer run by the Turner Motorsports squad.
Source: AutoSport.com

Alex Zanardi undergoes facial reconstruction surgery

MILAN — Former Formula One driver and Paralympic champion Alex Zanardi underwent further neurological surgery on Monday after being seriously injured in a handbike accident last month, a hospital statement said.

It was a third followup operation for the 53-year-old Italian, who remains in a medically-induced coma, after being hit by a vehicle during a handbike race in Siena on June 19.

The hospital in Siena said Zanardi underwent facial reconstruction surgery for five hours.

“The patient has undergone a new surgery aimed at cranio-facial reconstruction and stabilization of the areas affected by the trauma. The fractures were complex,” said Professor Paolo Gennaro, director of the Siena university hospital’s maxillofacial surgery unit, in a statement.

“This required careful programming that made use of computerised, digital and three-dimensional technologies, made to measure of the patient.

“The complexity of the case was rather singular, even if it is a type of fracture that we routinely face in our centre.”

Zanardi is an inspirational figure in motorsport and Paralympics after he had to have both of his legs amputated above the knee following a horrific crash in a Champ car race in Germany in September 2001.

He later turned to paracycling and won four Paralympic gold medals.

Ferrari raced Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix with messages of support for Zanardi on both its cars.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Tesla stock rises 13% as strong deliveries drive profit optimism

Shares of Tesla stock surged 13% to a record high on Monday, extending their rally to over 40% in five sessions after analysts raised their price targets on the electric car maker following its strong quarterly deliveries.

The day’s jump increased Tesla’s stock market value by $30 billion, eclipsing the entire value of Ford Motor Co, currently at $25 billion.

JMP Securities increased its price target to $1,500 from $1,050 after Tesla on Thursday reported higher-than-expected second-quarter vehicle deliveries, defying plummeting sales in the wider auto industry as the coronavirus pandemic slammed the global economy.

“We believe that the question to be considered is not whether the stock is expensive on current valuation measures, but what the company’s growth and competitive position signal about the stock’s potential for the next several years,” JMP Securities analyst Joseph Osha wrote in a client note. Tesla’s annual sales could hit $100 billion by 2025, he predicted. (For comparison, Toyota’s annual revenue is $275 billion, GM’s is $137 billion and Ford’s is $156 billion.)

JPMorgan, which rates Tesla “underweight,” raised its price target to $295 from $275, while Deutsche Bank upped its target to $1,000 from $900. The median analyst price target for Tesla is $675, compared with its current share price of $1,372, according to Refinitiv.

Tesla’s solid delivery numbers heightened expectations of a profitable second quarter, which would mark the first time in Tesla’s history that it would report four consecutive quarters of profit.

However, with Tesla’s stock up nearly 500% over the past year, many investors believe the rally is unsustainable. The stock is trading at 158 times expected earnings, according to Refinitiv, an exceptionally high valuation.

Following Monday’s surge, Tesla’s market capitalization stood at $245 billion, growing its lead as the world’s most valuable automaker by that measure.

Source: AutoBlog.com

2021 Jeep Wrangler will get incremental but useful changes

We already know Jeep will induct a plug-in hybrid Wranger 4xe into the lineup next year, at the same time as the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder with eTorque retires from the lineup. Mopar Insiders received word from “dealer sources” on a few more revisions headed to the lineup that bring small mechanical and equipment upgrades to a number of trims. For most Wranglers, the Snazzberry concept color that debuted on the Gladiator High Altitude at the Chicago Motor Show gets added to the palette, as does Hydro Blue. They’ll both be late availability, so even though dealers are now taking orders for 2021 Wrangler, the two hues might not show for a while.

Starting at the low end, the Wrangler Sport S comes standard next year with the Technology Group, currently a $995 option. The tech package adds a seven-inch TFT screen in the gauge cluster, the seven-inch Uconnect touchscreen with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, climate control with air filtering, and a one-year subscription to SiriusXM. All Wranglers with the seven-inch Uconnect screen will also get Selectable Tire-Fill Alerts (STFA). When airing up the tires, the STFA honks the horn to let the compressor operator know the tire is at the correct air pressure, and honks three times if the air line gets pulled when pressure is too low or too high.

Snazzberry, left, and Hydro Blue

Under the skin, the Sport S is presently equipped with Jeep’s Command-Trac 4×4 system that’s permanently in all-wheel drive mode. Next year, buyers will be able to upgrade to the Selec-Trac 4×4 unit that’s an option on the Sahara and Sahara Altitude, and automatically switches between two- and four-wheel drive depending on traction needs. Above that, MI says the Rock-Trac 4×4 system exclusive to the Rubicon trim will gain the 2WD/4WD switchability from the Selec-Trac 4×4 system.

The Rubicon picks up more welcome tech from the Sahara in the form of the Forward Facing Camera in the middle of the grille that projects an image of what’s in front of the vehicle on the infotainment screen. From the Gladiator, the Rubicon borrows the Off-Road+, a push-button feature that adjusts throttle response, shift points, and traction control activation during 4L maneuvers like rock crawling, during 4H maneuvers like sand running, and can let the Jeep stay in 4H at higher speeds. 

Depending on the consistency of FCA factory operations as automakers try to ramp up production, the 2021 Wrangler is expected to enter production on August 10.

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Source: AutoBlog.com