A Plot to Kill the King

Alliances are building to take the throne...

Written by Jimmy Mengel
Posted September 10, 2020

A king that would not feel his crown too heavy for him, must wear it every day; but if he think it too light, he knoweth not of what metal it is made.

Sir Francis Bacon

Elon Musk is the new king of the automobile — but I’m not too sure he knows what metal his crown is made of.

We’ve watched him take his eyes off the prize several times now: from smoking a joint on a podcast to Tweeting about taking Tesla private at $420 per share to calling a critic a pedophile. Two of those resulted in million-dollar penalties. He often seems distracted by his own celebrity and unable to truly feel the weight of his crown.

Much like President Trump, these petty indiscretions don’t seem to have done any damage to his supporters — or to investors.

Tesla's shares have catapulted over 700% in a year and Tesla is now the world's largest car company by market cap, topping $363 billion.

Just look at this majestic chart:

However, like with any royalty, there are assassins lurking about, biding their time and waiting to dethrone the king and take their place on the throne. There are enemies just waiting to seize on any sign of weakness. But as history has shown time and time again, if you want to rule the world, you had better bring an army.

And Musk's enemies are starting to form alliances...

We Three Kings

We've come a long way since the big three: General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford.

It was a triumvirate that ruled the auto industry for decades. But, eventually, each company found itself in desperate need of reinforcements.

In 1998, Chrysler merged with Daimler-Benz in a $38 billion agreement — the largest cross-border deal in history. It ended in heartache, lawsuits, and eventual divorce. Chrysler declared bankruptcy and eventually had to align with Fiat just to stay in the battle.

Just this year Ford partnered with Volkswagen to share production of 8 million commercial vehicles as part of an expanded alliance. They are also planning to build Electric SUVs to sell to the European market, where Ford will be using VW’s Modular Electrification Toolkit (MEB) to produce 600,000 electric vehicles. The companies are combining to react to the current situation on the battlefield.

“In light of the Covid 19 pandemic and its impacts on the global economy, more than ever it is vital to set up resilient alliances between strong companies,” Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said in a release. “This collaboration will efficiently drive down development costs, allowing broader global distribution of electric and commercial vehicles, and enhance the positions of both companies.”

And of course, we all remember GM’s infamous merger with the U.S. government…

During GM’s bankruptcy in 2009, the government swooped in with $50 billion for a 61% stake of the former auto king. While GM continued to operate, the government lost $11.2 billion on the bailout.

But GM is back with another big partnership, and this time they are taking aim at the current king, Tesla…

Shots Fired

GM just aligned itself with the new EV darling Nikola Corp. (NASDAQ: NKLA) in a $2 billion equity deal. Nikola produces heavy-duty semi-trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The goal is to cooperate on the Nikola Badger — a fully electric and hydrogen pickup truck that made headlines this year and sent Nikola’s stock soaring. The Badger is expected to compete with Tesla’s vaunted Cybertruck.

In return for an 11% stake in the company, General Motors will be the exclusive supplier of fuel cells to Nikola and provide battery technology. GM was already getting an electric Hummer and electric Cadillacs into production and the Badger will now share in the engineering.

Some estimates say that the deal will save Nikola $5 billion in manufacturing and engineering expenses.

It certainly seems like a perfect match, as Nikola shares rose 30% on the news and GM added 8%. It wasn’t lost on analysts that Tesla stock suffered its worst slump that same day, dropping over 20%.

This was the first major shot fired in the war, but like all battles, history will be the judge.

However, when it comes to the electric car market, I’m not wading into what will prove to be a bloody battle. While companies like Tesla, GM, Ford, VW, and Nikola are duking it out in the consumer market, I’ve found a company that is starting a kingdom of its own.

Its empire focuses on the overlooked commercial market.

This company identified the need for hydrogen fuel trucks early, and already has 2,000 of these trucks deployed all over the world. It has also realized the potential for fuel cells to power buses, trains, and forklifts.

While it isn’t as sexy as a Tesla Cybertruck or a Nikola Badger, it has the ingenuity and staying power to corner the hydrogen fuel cell market for years to come.

If I were joining forces with anyone now, it would be this company that won’t be digging moats, firing arrows, and launching catapults.

It’ll just be enjoying the view from a safe, distant castle.



Jimmy Mengel 
Editor, The Crow's Nest 

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