CARMAKING IS LITTERED with defunct marques, from Diatto and Hupmobile to Mercer and Whitlock. America spawned around 250 firms by the 1910 s. As the 20 th century wound to a close it had three that mattered: Ford, General Motors (GM) and Chrysler. In the past few years an electric version of the early American automobile boom is unfolding on a global scale.
在汽车制造业里已经有大量品牌不复存在，比如迪亚托（Diatto）、Hupmobile、美世（Mercer）和惠特洛克（Whitlock），等等。美国到 1910 年代已经诞生了大约 250 家汽车制造商。到了 20 世纪末，其中三家变得举足轻重：福特、通用汽车和克莱斯勒。过去几年里，电动汽车在全球范围的蓬勃发展再现了当年美国汽车产业的繁荣景象。
Chinese startups like Aiways, Li Auto, Nio, WM Motor and Xpeng are already making electric vehicles (EVs) in their thousands. In Europe, Croatia’s Rimac and Spain’s Hispano Suiza are building hypercars, while Britain’s Arrival is manufacturing electric vans. American companies such as Canoo, Fisker, Lordstown, Lucid and Rivian hope to start full-scale production soon. Foxconn, a Taiwanese contract manufacturer better known for making Apple’s iPhones, may soon also be assembling electric cars for others. As for Apple, its next gadget could be an iCar.
爱驰、理想、蔚来、威马和小鹏等中国创业公司已经在以数万台的年产量制造电动汽车。在欧洲，克罗地亚的 Rimac 和西班牙的 Hispano Suiza 正在打造电动超级跑车，而英国的 Arrival 正在制造电动货车。Canoo、Fisker、Lordstown、Lucid 和 Rivian 等美国公司希望很快开始全面投产。台湾代工厂富士康更出名的业务是为苹果生产 iPhone，它可能很快也会为其他公司组装电动汽车。至于苹果，它的下一个产品可能就是 iCar。
Most of the insurgents are loss-making. Some have yet to earn any revenue. But all see a chance to grab a slice of an industry that has turned decisively in the direction of battery power (see chart 1). Everyone wants to be the next Tesla, which has successfully used batteries and clever software to take on the internal combustion engine. In the process Elon Musk’s firm has become the world’s most valuable car company, worth more than the next three biggest carmakers combined.
Tesla’s $600 bn valuation serves as a“torch at the front”，says Engelbert Wimmer of e&Co, a consultancy. Now investors are looking for the next beacon. Nio listed in New York in 2018. Xpeng and Li followed suit last year. All are worth as much or more than many established carmakers. Arrival and several of the American firms have used mergers with special-purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, as a shortcut to public markets—and to valuations in the billions. Patrick von Herz of Lincoln International, an investment bank, calls it a“global feeding frenzy”。He Xiaopeng, Xpeng’s boss, has said he expects the market to swell to 300 or so firms before settling at around ten. How do the challengers avoid the fate of the forgotten?
咨询公司 e&Co 的恩格尔贝特・维默尔（Engelbert Wimmer）表示，特斯拉高达 6000 亿美元的估值就像「领头的火炬」。现在，投资者正在寻找下一个灯塔。2018 年，蔚来在纽约上市。小鹏和理想也在去年跟上。这些公司的市值都与许多老牌汽车制造商相当，甚至更高。Arrival 和几家美国公司已经通过与特殊目的收购公司（SPAC）合并这条捷径成功上市，市值以几十亿美元计。投资银行林肯国际（Lincoln International）的帕特里克・冯・赫兹（Patrick von Herz）称这是「全球性的疯狂竞争」。小鹏的老板何晓鹏表示，他预计电动车厂商会增加到 300 家左右，然后稳定在十来家。这些挑战者该如何避免被遗忘的命运？
The basic blueprint for survival involves three elements. The upstarts must first find a starting niche from which they can expand. They then need actually to produce cars at scale. Finally, they have to create a sales-and-distribution network. Most will fail at one or more of these steps. Ironically, those with the best odds of emulating Tesla’s success may be the ones that look least like it.
Start with picking your battlefield. That could be geographic. Philippe Houchois of Jefferies, another investment bank, reckons that the next Tesla will come from China. Consumers hungry for new tech and a government keen to support electrification have given China’s insurgents a head-start. Nio, the largest of the lot, made 44,000 cars in 2020. It is valued at $69 bn. The market capitalisations of Xpeng and Li, respectively $28 bn and $22 bn, are also juicy. Rich access to capital helps fund expansion at home and abroad. Xpeng has already started selling cars in Norway, home to Europe’s most enthusiastic EV buyers. Nio is about to join it.
首先是选择战场。它可能是地理意义上的。另一家投资银行杰富瑞（Jefferies）的菲利普・霍乔斯（Philippe Houchois）认为，下一个特斯拉将诞生于中国。消费者对新技术的渴望以及政府对电气化的大力支持让中国的造车新势力抢占了先机。蔚来是其中最大的一家，它在 2020 年生产了 4.4 万辆车，目前市值 690 亿美元。小鹏和理想的市值也相当可观，分别为 280 亿美元和 220 亿美元。强大的融资能力帮助它们赢得在国内外扩张所需的资金。小鹏已经开始把汽车卖到了挪威这个欧洲最热衷购买电动汽车的国家。蔚来也即将进入挪威市场。
Even more important than geography is choosing the right market segment. Tesla was not the first to make EVs but it was the first to make big and pricey premium ones where the high cost of the battery could be absorbed. Many new firms are also aiming at premium SUVs and saloons where profit margins are fattest. But competition is hotting up from established carmakers such as Volkswagen’s Audi and Porsche brands, as well as Mercedes. In April Geely, a Chinese firm with global ambitions, launched a premium electric marque called Zeekr. The mass market, meanwhile, is likewise busy, with GM and Ford the latest to announce a big electric push.
比地理市场更重要的是选对细分市场。特斯拉并不是第一家电动汽车制造商，却是第一家生产昂贵的大型豪华电动汽车的厂商，这样就可以消化高昂的电池成本。许多新公司也瞄准了利润最丰厚的豪华 SUV 和轿车。但随着大众旗下的奥迪和保时捷以及梅赛德斯等老牌汽车制造商入局，竞争正在升温。4 月，有志于全球扩张的中国公司吉利推出了一款名为 Zeekr 的豪华电动车型。与此同时，大众市场也差不多热闹，通用汽车和福特最近都已宣布要大举押注电动车。
Other segments may therefore be a better bet. One is light commercial vehicles, demand for which has been boosted by the pandemic e-commerce boom. Alastair Hayfield of Interact Analysis, a consultancy, sees“no Tesla yet”for delivery vans. Carmakers are merely popping EV power trains into existing products—an unhappy compromise that affects performance. That leaves opportunities for firms like Arrival and Rivian. Another potentially lucrative niche is the hypercar. Wealthy petrol-heads seem willing to fork out $2 m or so to add to their stables. Rimac and Pininfarina of Italy also see these cars as test-beds for EV technology to sell to other car firms. China’s Silk-FAW considers its Hongqi S9 hybrid as a gateway to the mass market.
因此，其他细分市场可能是更好的选择。轻型商用车市场便是其中之一，新冠疫情带来的电子商务热潮加大了对这类车型的需求。咨询公司 Interact Analysis 的阿拉斯泰尔・海菲尔德（Alastair Hayfield）认为，运货车领域「还没有出现特斯拉」。汽车制造商目前不过是在现有车型中加上了电动汽车传动系统——这样的折中方案影响性能，并不能令人满意。这给 Arrival 和 Rivian 等公司提供了机遇。另一个或许有利可图的细分市场是超级跑车。富有的汽油车发烧友们似乎愿意花 200 来万美元添置一台新玩具。Rimac 和意大利的 Pininfarina 也将这些汽车看作向其他车厂出售电动汽车技术的试验台。中国的 Silk-FAW 合资企业将它开发的红旗 S9 混合动力超跑视为进入大众市场的途径。
Identifying the right segment may not be enough, however. Brian Gu, president of Xpeng, admits that the new firms must offer something truly different. For years the industry’s technologically stodgier incumbents“didn’t realise it was a tech race”，says Peter Rawlinson, who runs Lucid. As cars become more like personal electronic devices, being tech firms first and carmakers second may confer an advantage. Foxconn’s boss, Young Liu, has argued that the driving experience of the future will be“software-driven and software-defined”。
然而，找对细分市场可能还不够。小鹏的总裁顾宏地承认，新企业必须提供某些真正与众不同的东西。Lucid 的 CEO 彼得・罗林森（Peter Rawlinson）说，多年来，传统汽车公司在技术上一直古板守旧，「没有意识到这是一场技术竞赛」。随着汽车变得越来越像个人电子设备，企业将自身首先定位为科技公司、其次才是汽车制造商可能会带来一种优势。富士康的董事长刘扬伟认为，未来的驾驶体验将「由软件驱动，由软件定义」。
Novel intellectual property is a“good visiting card”for investors, says Pedro Pacheco of Gartner, a consultancy. But it is not enough to stick big touchscreens onto a standard electric power train, as many of the Chinese Tesla copycats are doing. The over-the-air software updates, proprietary charging networks and online direct sales pioneered by the American firm are now seen as table stakes.
在投资者看来，创新的知识产权是张「闪亮的名片」，咨询公司高德纳的佩德罗・帕切科（Pedro Pacheco）说。但是，像许多中国的特斯拉模仿者在做的那样，只在普通电动汽车上安装上大尺寸触摸屏是不够的。由特斯拉首创的 OTA 软件更新、专有充电网络和网络直销现在都被看作是入场筹码。
So the newcomers are trying to stamp their own technological mark on the industry. Lucid’s techies have extracted range of up to 517 miles (832 km) from its batteries. Nio offers a three-minute battery-swap service, to reassure Chinese buyers without access to home charging. Xpeng claims that its voice-activation system is the best in the business. Fisker and Canoo offer subscriptions that give motorists access to car use rather than ownership.
因此，新来者都想方设法在这个行业打上自己的技术印记。Lucid 的技术人员已经将自己的电池续航里程提高到 517 英里（832 公里）。蔚来提供三分钟换电池服务，以求消除那些无法在家中充电的中国车主的后顾之忧。小鹏声称自己拥有业内最先进的语音控制系统。Fisker 和 Canoo 提供的订阅服务让人们无需买车就能用车。
Ultimately, buyers will decide which of these are desirable features and which are gimmicks. But not before the new models are produced and sold. Making a few thousand cars a year is hard enough (though losing money doing so is easy). Actually selling hundreds of thousands at a profit is another matter entirely.“Production hell”nearly sent Tesla under. A lead on flashy software must be backed up with giant presses, paint shops and assembly lines. As such, manufacturing an EV is in many ways not much different to making a petrol car, according to Bernstein, a broker—and no Less expensive. A new purpose-built car factory that can churn out 100,000 or so vehicles a year costs at least $1 bn.
这些功能哪些值得拥有、哪些只是噱头，最终还是消费者说了算。但这也得在新车型生产和销售之后才有定论。一年生产几千辆车已经够难了（虽然这么搞赔钱倒是很容易）。真能把几十万辆车卖出去还赚到钱又完全是另一回事了。「生产地狱」差点让特斯拉倒闭。有了酷炫领先的软件，还得有大型压铸机、油漆车间和装配线作为后盾。因此，经纪公司盛博表示，制造一辆电动车在许多方面与制造汽油车没有太大区别，而且成本也不会更低。专门建造一家年产 10 万辆左右的新工厂至少要砸 10 亿美元。
To get around this problem some of the challengers are instead repurposing existing factories, as Tesla did by acquiring a disused one in Fremont, California, for a song. Rivian has moved into an old Mitsubishi factory in Illinois. Other newcomers are teaming up with the old guard, with experience of maintaining long and complex supply chains. Baidu has entered into a partnership with Geely and Huawei with its domestic rivals, BAIC, Changan and GAC. Fisker and Nio are taking an asset-light route by using contract manufacturers of the sort used by big carmakers to make small runs of cars or those with finicky features such as folding roofs.
一些挑战者选择改造老工厂来减轻成本压力，比如特斯拉就低价买下了位于加州弗里蒙（Fremont）的一家废弃工厂。Rivian 搬进了伊利诺斯州一座原属于三菱的老工厂。其他新来者正在与老牌企业合作，后者在维护漫长且复杂的供应链方面很有经验。百度已与吉利联手，而华为与吉利的国内竞争对手北汽、长安和广汽结盟。Fisker 和蔚来都在走借助代工厂的轻资产路线，这类代工厂过去为大车厂生产小批量车或带有折叠式敞篷车顶等复杂功能的汽车。
Arrival’s approach may be the most innovative. Where Tesla and others are going“giga”，the British firm says“micro”。Commercial vehicles do not require the styling or customisation of Passenger cars, so it is eschewing production lines for“cell”assembly of composite panels. This can be done in small industrial units that cost just $40 m-50 m to buy and retool. These can produce 10,000 vehicles a year close to markets, adding scale with Less risk.
The final hurdle is flogging the vehicles to consumers. The new EV-makers are mostly dispensing with traditional dealer networks in favour of Tesla’s model of online sales backed up with shops to show off their wares. That still leaves the challenge of creating a servicing network if anything goes wrong. Such networks, which car buyers have come to expect, can be as expensive and tricky to scale up as manufacturing is. Mr Pacheco of Gartner notes that even Tesla’s is still a work in progress. In America the big three Detroit carmakers have nearly 10,000 dealerships that will service cars; Tesla has around 135.
最后一个难关是把汽车卖给消费者。新一代电动汽车制造商大多摒弃了传统的经销商网络，转而采用特斯拉的在线销售模式，并辅之以产品展示店。但这种模式仍然留下一个挑战：需要建立一个服务网络来处理各种问题。购车者已经开始期待这样的网络，但扩大这一网络可是像扩大造车一样费钱又费事。高德纳的帕切科指出，即便是特斯拉的服务网络也还只是个半成品。在美国，底特律三大汽车制造商拥有近一万家提供售后服务的经销商；特斯拉有 135 家左右。
Many new firms won’t get that far. Several have already suffered setbacks. Dyson, a British firm better known for vacuum-cleaners, sank £500 m ($640 m) into an EV effort only to conclude in 2019 that it would never make money. The same year Nio teetered on the brink of bankruptcy until the local government in its home city of Hefei bailed it out. A bloodbath awaits China’s myriad smaller EV firms as they run out of ideas and money. Fisker is a reborn version of a firm that went bankrupt in 2013.
许多新公司都走不到售后这一步。有些已经在开倒车。以生产吸尘器闻名的英国公司戴森在电动汽车项目上投入了 5 亿英镑（6.4 亿美元），却在 2019 年得出该项目永远不会赚钱的结论。同年，蔚来濒临破产，直到其总部所在地合肥的市政府出手相救。随着中国众多小型电动汽车公司的创意和资金枯竭，它们面临着被血洗的命运。Fisker 的前身就是一家在 2013 年破产的公司。
Attention, vehicles reversing 请注意，倒车
As the complicated reality of carmaking sets in, the hype is wearing off among investors (see chart 2). Lordstown’s value has fallen by 65% since peaking in February, after it lowered forecast production for its pickup truck and said it needed fresh funds. Canoo’s shares are worth Less than half what they were when it went public in December, owing to growing doubts about its business plan.
在造车的种种复杂现实浮现之时，投资者的兴奋情绪也在减退（见图表 2）。Lordstown 在调低了自家轻型货车的产量预期并表示需要更多资金后，市值已较 2 月的最高点下跌了 65%。Canoo 的商业计划受到的质疑与日俱增，目前股价已跌至不到去年 12 月上市时的一半。
In short, notes Aakash Arora of BCG, a consultancy, the new firms need to establish brands. So far, he says, only Tesla has done so. It can take years to gain a reputation for reliable products, while capital burns like petrol put to a spark. A new entrant needs a trusted name, deep pockets and a proven ability to come up with clever tech. One company that has all those in spades is Apple. The iPhone-maker has been working on an EV for several years. The latest chatter is that it will have one in production by the middle of the decade. Some of its potential competitors will by then be well on the way to oblivion.
简而言之，波士顿咨询公司的阿卡什・阿罗拉（Aakash Arora）指出，这些新公司需要树立品牌。他说，到目前为止，只有特斯拉做到了。赢得产品可靠的声誉可能要等待多年，而资本烧起来就像汽油点着火。新进入者需要有被信赖的品牌、雄厚的资金，还要在推出智能技术上有可靠的能力。在这三条上都绰绰有余的公司当属苹果。这家出品 iPhone 手机的公司研发电动汽车已经有几年了。坊间新的传言是它的电动汽车将在 2025 年前后投产。到那时，它的一些潜在竞争对手早就销声匿迹了。