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Electric car upstarts sizzle

November 17, 2021, 7:07 PM UTC

General Motors CEO Mary Barra must be wondering what she needs to do to get some attention.

Her company is investing billions of dollars in electric vehicles, taking steps toward ending production of all gas-powered cars by 2035 and welcoming President Joe Biden to one of its Detroit-area EV plants Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, all anyone can talk about is Rivian and Lucid (and, of course, Tesla). 

As legacy automakers gradually transition to the environmentally-friendly vehicle market, EV startup stocks have gone gangbusters this month. Less than a week after its IPO, shares in Rivian, the Amazon- and Ford-backed EV manufacturer with no current revenue stream, closed at $172.01 Tuesday, versus its $78 per share debut. Meanwhile, Lucid, on track to lose about $2 billion this year, has seen its stock price more than double since mid-October. 

Both companies were among the market leaders on Tuesday in terms of trading volume.

Sure, the markets could be blowing irrationally for electric cars. CNBC’s Jim Cramer certainly thinks they are, saying he’s “absolutely just astonished by how much people want these stocks.” Investors took a break from EV stocks in midday trading Wednesday, with Rivian down 17% and Lucid tumbling 6% as of the early afternoon.

Yet, in the bigger picture, it’s not just Wall Street insiders buzzing about electric car companies. Mainstream investors are too. 

Citing data from Vanda Research, Bloomberg reported Tuesday that retail investors gobbled up $378 million in shares of EV automakers in the past week, with buyers preferring Rivian and Lucid to Tesla. Fidelity data showed self-directed retail traders buying (and selling) more shares of Lucid and Rivian on Wednesday than any other company by a wide margin. 

The meme stock army also is atwitter over EVs. According to analytics tool Swaggy Stocks, Rivian, Lucid and Tesla are dominating mentions on the Reddit forum WallStreetBets, a premier hub for meme stock chatter. During a 24-hours stretch ending Wednesday morning, all three scored at least twice as many mentions as the next-closest company on the site.

There’s good reason to believe the EV startup explosion will cool. Rivian and Lucid both benefited from a confluence of factors driving interest in the EV sector: Tesla CEO Elon Musk selling off a small portion of his stake in his company; passage of an infrastructure bill with $7.5 billion for expanding EV charging stations across the country; and Lucid snagging MotorTrend’s 2022 Car of the Year award Monday. The pair also wouldn’t be the first to get the “next Tesla” tag, only to stall in the garage (see: Lordstown Motors).

At a minimum, though, the past week has put two new companies on the map—and not just for the power suit-wearing types—in a sector that figures to only grow, grow, grow.

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Jacob Carpenter

NEWSWORTHY

Activision in hot water. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Bobby Kotick, the longtime CEO of Activision Blizzard, misled company directors and fellow executives about sexual assault allegations that have roiled the video game developer. Members of Activision Blizzard’s board issued a statement Tuesday supporting Kotick, saying they are confident Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues. At the same time, about 150 employees staged a walkout in protest of Kotick’s handling of the matter, while investors sent Activision Blizzard’s stock down 7% Tuesday in the hours after the Journal published its article. Activision Blizzard is under separate investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for its handling of the allegations. 

Amazon-Visa relationship goes down the tubes. People with Visa credit cards issued in the United Kingdom will no longer be able to use them for shopping on Amazon as of mid-January, Amazon announced Wednesday. The move escalates a squabble between Amazon and Visa over Visa’s credit card processing fees in the U.K., which increased after the U.K.’s exit from the European Union. A Visa spokesperson said the company is “very disappointed” by the decision, adding that talks about the matter are ongoing. Amazon will still accept U.K.-issued Visa debit cards, as well as Mastercard, Amex and Eurocard credit cards.

Netflix takes a page from Nielsen. After years of complaints about a lack of transparency, Netflix announced Tuesday that it will release viewership data on its 10 most-watched shows and movies each week, The New York Times reported. Netflix’s vice president for content strategy, Pablo Perez De Rosso, said the disclosures will give creators and subscribers “the clearest answer” to what success looks like in the television industry. Netflix previously released limited viewership data four times per year, while also occasionally publishing figures for hit shows. The streaming giant will not disclose viewership for the vast majority of shows or films, saving its biggest duds—looking at you, Friends From College—the embarrassment.

Big Tech critic gets thumbs-up from Senate. Jonathan Kanter, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division received Senate approval to the post Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. Kanter, a self-described advocate for “vigorous antitrust enforcement in the technology area,” is expected to help carry out the Biden administration’s crackdown on mergers that it says stifle competition. Prior to his appointment, Kanter represented companies that fought Google and Apple, among others, over claims of anti-competitive practices.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Who could’ve seen this coming? Among Silicon Valley giants, Facebook has long been known for its refreshingly transparent internal culture, where information flowed freely among employees. That ethos crystallized in one of the company’s core values: “Be Open.” Not surprisingly, Meta is changing a few things. The former Facebook, which rebranded as Meta earlier this month, is clamping down on access to information as the company rapidly adds staff and continues to deal with fallout from the Frances Haugen whistleblower leaks, The Verge reported. Meta confirmed some of the changes, saying in a statement that company executives have been talking for months about “the right model of information sharing for the company, balancing openness with sharing relevant information and maintaining focus.”

From the article:

While the documents Haugen leaked haven’t yet caused Meta to make meaningful changes to its products, they’ve already left a lasting mark on how the world’s largest social network operates, particularly in its research and Integrity divisions. 

Ten of the 70 preapproved talks presented at the internal research summit a couple of weeks ago received a second, more stringent review to minimize leak risk. Senior leaders, including policy and communications chief Nick Clegg, have in recent months slowed the release of Integrity research internally, asking for reports to be reviewed again before they’re shared even in private groups. 

In some cases, researchers have been told to make clear what is defensible by data in their work and what is opinion, and that their projects will need to be cleared by more managers before work begins.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Google CEO Sundar Pichai says the company’s next $1 trillion will come from its oldest product, by Mark Bergen and Bloomberg

Binance’s CEO doesn’t see any way that users in China can continue to use crypto platforms, by Joanna Ossinger and Bloomberg

Kicking the tires on GM’s $35 billion shift to an all-electric future, by Fortune editors

Business leaders say we can build a better supply chain—but it won’t happen fast, by Alyssa Newcomb

Smartphone supplier Qualcomm muscles in on Nvidia’s turf with BMW self-driving chip deal, by Christiaan Hetzner

Medical professionals consider AI to address chronic health conditions in the midst of COVID-19, by Kylie Logan

GM’s heated seats and steering wheels are the latest casualty of the chip shortage, by Chris Morris

BEFORE YOU GO

Why go to the Genius Bar when you can stay home? iPhone owners, rejoice. It only took 14 years, but many customers will soon be able to fix their cherished devices from home. Apple is rolling out its first self-service repair plan, allowing users to tinker with the display, battery, and camera on their iPhone 12 and iPhone 13. The program begins early next year, with more options, including the chance to fix Mac computers with M1 chips, arriving later in 2022. Worried about further busting your already-broken handheld? Apple and not-thrilled-with-this-news independent repair shops aren’t going anywhere.

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