Across the country since the New York Auto Show, which began this week, a small electric vehicle company called SF Motors has emerged from the shadows. The Chinese-backed company recalled its first two high-power electric vehicles at an event in northern California last night, where the company outlined roughly how it plans to take the EV market and the automotive industry in general.
These plans revolve around two fully electric SUVs: the SF5 and the SF7. The SF5 will reach the market first, the company says, with advanced orders starting this year and production in 2019. Both cars are built on the same platform, which includes electric motors and battery technology that was developed in the company.
SF Motors promises up to 1,000 horsepower and more than 300 miles of reach
SF Motors says it will sell different versions of each car with two, three or even four electric motors, offering up to 1,000 horsepower and a range of more than 300 miles. The SUVs are full of intelligent features inside, and SF Motors also promises semi-autonomous capabilities. The cheapest models could start "below $ 50,000," according to Forbes.
The SF Motors SF5.
The technology of the transmission and the battery apparently comes, in large part, from a company that acquired SF Motors at the end of last year called Inevit. Inevit was started by Martin Eberhard, co-founder and former CEO of Tesla, who faced Elon Musk during some of the company's early years. Eberhard now serves as "director of innovation" for SF Motors.
SF Motors has a R & D store in Silicon Valley (and others around the world), but it will make its SUVs in Indiana. The company bought a former manufacturing plant that used to pump Hummer SUVs that it is currently reorganizing for the production of its electric vehicles, which is estimated to start at around 50,000 per year. However, SF Motors is a US subsidiary of the Chinese commercial vehicle company Sokon, so it will also be able to manufacture around 150,000 SF Motors vehicles in China, a market that adores SUVs and is widely regarded as the next frontier for vehicles. electric
Tesla's former CEO and co-founder, Martin Eberhard, is helping direct the show at SF Motors
Making cars on a significant scale is a monumental task, but if SF Motors can surpass production and pull out a car that is as impressive as it was mocked this week, it sets the potential for tremendous drama in this corner of the automotive industry, including without Eberhard's participation.
That's because SF Motors is precisely the kind of company that Musk recently complained to President Donald Trump on Twitter. Apparently, it is a Chinese company that plans to manufacture vehicles here in the USA. UU And in China, which means that it will not be subject to import taxes in any of the markets.
Musk called this unfair because non-Chinese companies have only one way to avoid a 25 percent tax that China applies to imported vehicles, which is to enter into a joint venture with a Chinese auto company. "The current rules make things very difficult," he wrote. "It's like competing in an Olympic race with lead shoes."
The SF Motors SF7.
China imposed the rule of the joint venture as a way to boost the capabilities of its own car manufacturers, which have long lagged behind the largest brands in the industry. But joint ventures effectively reduce the amount of total profits available to non-Chinese car manufacturers, and there have also been concerns about the exchange of intellectual property with local companies. Efforts to pressure China to allow foreign manufacturers to operate alone in the "free trade zones" have stalled.
The result is that selling cars in China can be a difficult prospect. Tesla cars, which are already expensive in the United States, end up costing even more in China because of the import tax. Some automakers, such as Ford, have long accepted the rule of the joint venture, but have had trouble keeping up with the pace and demands of the Chinese market.
Other companies have made great strides in China despite these obstacles. GM sold 4 million cars in China in 2017 through its joint venture with Chinese automaker SAIC. Honda overtook Ford in sales there in 2017, and the largest Japanese automakers have succeeded in joint ventures.
SF Motors is emblematic of the different ways in which China is changing the automotive industry
Many things must go well for SF Motors before Sokon can exploit its dual market advantage, but it seems to be better configured to try it than almost any other startup. The only other Chinese electric vehicle startup that is heading towards a similar path is NIO, which has a factory in China but is planning an initial public offering in the United States.
A wild card in all this is that the Trump administration could try to pressure China to reduce the rule of the joint venture, as Musk asked. But, meanwhile, Trump is likely to assign new rates to goods arriving in the US. UU From China.
There is no guarantee that the SF Motors SUVs are good or that they will sell well. In addition to the illuminated mustache grid, the two vehicles are indistinguishable from those manufactured by NIO or Byton or any other number of new electric vehicle companies. And with more established companies such as Jaguar and Hyundai that cover all-electric SUVs, there will be more competition than just Tesla at the time the SF5 goes on the market.
But the modern automotive industry is being shaped by China more and more every day. SF Motors is possibly the most emblematic example of that phenomenon.