Start-up derby

Esquire (Singapore) - - Contents -

Since Tesla pro­duced its first car in 2008, dozens of new com­pa­nies have an­nounced in­ten­tions to en­ter the ve­hi­cle mar­ket. Some have ap­peared at auto shows with con­vinc­ing pro­to­types. Oth­ers were con­jured into ex­is­tence by those seem­ingly more flu­ent in HTML than horse­power. We imag­ine the dawn of the mass-pro­duced au­to­mo­bile 100 years ago was some­thing like this past decade, although Volk­swa­gen, Gen­eral Mo­tors and Toy­ota will likely prove to be more en­trenched than the horse-and-buggy trade.

Many of these would-be au­tomak­ers seem to re­gard Elon Musk as their pa­tron saint and are thus fu­elled by a cock­tail of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, au­to­ma­tion and ride-shar­ing stirred with a dash of ­mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal ex­ec­u­tive dem­a­goguery. But when ‘white space’ in the ex­ist­ing mar­ket means tiny mo­bil­ity pods more suited to a golf course than a high­way, it’s no won­der that we’ve also seen an on­slaught of as­pir­ing bou­tique man­u­fac­tur­ers pitch­ing ever more au­da­cious ex­otic su­per­cars.

In­deed, ven­ture cap­i­tal is a-flow­ing, search­ing for the next Tesla (or prof­itable Tesla). With that kind of chum in the wa­ter, the preda­tors, op­por­tunis­tic feed­ers and bot­tom dwellers are all rush­ing to the sur­face to take a nib­ble. But when it can cost bil­lions of dol­lars for an ex­ist­ing car com­pany to de­velop one new ve­hi­cle, can any of these new en­ti­ties sur­vive long enough to pro­duce a vi­able prod­uct, let alone cel­e­brate a tin an­niver­sary? Here’s our guide to 20 of the more cred­i­ble up­starts, with their chances of suc­cess rated on a highly sci­en­tific scale.

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