Raw Material Costs Put EV Makers in Tough Spot

Quarterly reports from electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers show that they are struggling to meet delivery targets and rapidly burning through cash because of skyrocketing raw material costs. In fact, every time Lucid or Rivian sells an EV, they are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars due to soaring raw material and production costs. As an example, Lucid’s revenue cost has surged from $3.3 million in Q3, 2021 to $492.5 million in the third quarter of this year. The company’s losses increased even more as customers canceled orders because of long waiting times.

The company, which went public a little over a year ago and is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, saw its market value plunge by two-thirds this year to about $20 billion from $95 billion at its peak in November 2021.

The company said it had enough cash to go forward until at least Q4, 2023 and is looking to raise $1.5 billion through a stock sale. After third quarter results, the company’s stock price dropped by 17% before gaining back to close Friday down 4.4%.

U.S.-listed British firm Arrival SA warned last week it may not have enough cash to keep its business going toward the end of next year, and would have to cut jobs. The company has yet to start mass production.

U.S. EV startup Canoo said in May it had serious doubts of remaining a going-concern. At the end of September, it had $6.8 million in cash and equivalents, down sharply from $415 million a year earlier.

Many EV startups recorded huge losses in the third quarter and warned that high costs were here to stay due to surging inflation and a global supply chain crisis. Just a year earlier, several listed their stocks at heady valuations, spurred by the success of Tesla, currently the world’s most valuable automaker.

Tesla has managed to survive supply bottlenecks by making deals with key suppliers and ramping up production of its Model 3. The company’s advantage was facing those challenges earlier at a time when EV competition was not as harsh as today from global automotive giants such as GM and Volkswagen.

In the latest quarter, Tesla reported earnings of $3.3 billion.

Firms have started to take different approaches in order to save money and outlast the bad economy. Rivian is shifting more car deliveries across the United States to rail freight, while Lucid is considering it as an option as well.

Ohio-based Lordstown Motors, which issued a going-concern notice last year that led to the exits of its top bosses, has curtailed output. It sold the fifth of the company this month to Taiwan’s Foxconn, which is known as an iPhone assembler but have started to venture into EV manufacturing in recent years. Lordstown has also sold its Ohio plant to the Taiwanese technology firm last year after it needed funds to start production of its Endurance pickups.

Still, higher output would ultimately reduce the cost per car and limiting production can threaten the path to profitability.

Some companies, especially the ones that have cash, are in a better position to survive the crisis. Rivian, which is owned by Amazon and Ford among others, had $13.8 billion cash on hand at the end of September. It also has a contract to supply 100,000 electric delivery vans to Amazon. But its cost of goods sold was about $220,000 per car versus an average selling price of $81,000 in the quarter.

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