Welcome to the first Critical Materials news roundup of 2024! In case you didn’t catch any of them last year (I can make that joke now), this daily segment is where we cover some of today’s important stories in EVs and tech, all in one place. Think of it like your morning coffee, but for news.
Today, we’ve got some details on when Volkswagen’s mostly American EV spin-off brand, Scout, plans to debut its first EV. We also learn that Rimac plans to reveal its first commercial vehicle: a driverless robotaxi, something that Tesla has promised and delayed over and over again. Speaking of delays, it’s been found that EVs have heavily contributed to delaying new vehicle launches. All that and more, below.
30%: Scout will debut its first EV this summer
Volkswagen has admitted that it’s on a self-discovery journey in the U.S.—one that it hopes will help the brand find relevancy again. And one of the many ways it plans to do that is with its EV spin-off brand: Scout, which revives a famed off-roading brand to make the electric trucks and SUVs that VW thinks Americans really want.
Scout published a New Year’s video titled “There is a Scout in All of Us” that markets its vehicles to its core audience, which is everyday normal folk. Scout is aimed at blue-collared, Joe and Jill Everyperson, something evident in the video as it pans through cornfields, follows people on a backpacking adventure, and even teachers in a classroom. It’s no surprise that those who know about the brand are excited about its launch.
The problem is that nobody is sure what Scout plans to reveal yet, except that it will first be a pickup truck followed by an SUV about six months later. Well, now that hype will have another countdown as the automaker has revealed in the video exactly when it plans to take the cloak off of at least one of its upcoming vehicles.
Officially, Scout says that it will unveil a vehicle this summer, meaning it could happen any time between late June and late September. This also coincides with the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which now takes place in mid-September. If I had to put our money on it, that’s likely when Scout will make its move.
So that’s our new timeline: a reveal of what will likely be a close-to-production concept of at least the unnamed Scout pickup truck this summer, followed by an expected production start closer to 2026 when its South Carolina manufacturing plant goes online.
60%: Rimac plans to unveil Tesla-rivaling robotaxi early this year
Rimac, the EV company behind the flagship Nevera hypercar and co-owner of Bugatti, is planning to build a fleet of robotaxis.
The Croatian brand’s CEO and founder, Mate Rimac, told AutoCar that it plans to reveal the work being done under its Project 3 Mobility branding in early 2024. But don’t expect the robotaxis to be on the road any early than 2026. The brand needs time to polish off its manufacturing of this bespoke vehicle, and to develop the supporting infrastructure. That means a series of Rimac-built chargers and storage facilities meant to house its vehicles.
Rimac is no stranger to autonomy. It has worked on various internal autonomy projects in the past and has even claimed that the Nevera would help to teach its owners how to bomb through a racetrack like a pro. Project 3 Mobility in particular has been around since late 2021, promising to deliver a fully autonomous ride-hailing service. It looks like that promise is coming closer to fruition as it prioritizes building a dedicated manufacturing facility locally in Croatia, where the service will first be offered. Mate Rimac explains:
The goal is for the production of vehicles and a large number of components to be based in Croatia, which would then export tens of thousands of units per year to locations where the robotaxi service will be provided.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: everyone wants a little bit of that Tesla money. Ideally, a lot of it. Automakers—legacy, startup, and everybody in between—are quickly finding out that breaking through in some sort of revolutionary tech is the way to do that. And what better way than to do that than to beat Tesla at its own game?
The problem is that, as Tesla has already discovered, self-driving is hard. If Rimac wants to be successful, it will need to figure out a way to rapidly advance its own autonomy programs. Fortunately, there is rumored to be some help from Kia, which has worked with the Croatian brand on similar mobility projects in the past.
Project 3’s fleet is slated to enter into production sometime in 2026. The service will first be offered locally in Croatia’s capital of Zagreb, followed by a launch in the UK and Germany in 2027.
90%: EVs heavily contribute to delayed new vehicle launches
You might have noticed that car launches have been getting delayed a lot recently. It’s not just in your head—it’s actually happening, and new EVs are largely to blame. That’s according to PwC, a consulting firm that has its claws deep in the emerging electric car industry.
As Automotive News recently reported, in 2023, nearly 34% of all new vehicle launches experienced production delays. This is up considerably from the 5% of delays recorded in 2018, largely before the EV boom started taking off. Now, with EVs beginning to take the market by storm, delays have become a rather common occurrence in the industry, mostly stemming from three rather common-sense areas.
First, there are the obvious problems with EVs being a relatively new at-scale technology. This has notably caused automakers to need to rethink how they build, market, and service these vehicles versus traditional combustion-powered cars. As a whole, this has been a rather difficult (and expensive) speed bump in the industry.
The dealership model also isn’t sure how to deal with EVs as a whole. Only 55.1% of new car dealers sell EVs today, and those are mostly larger dealerships with hundreds (or more) of sales each month. For some brands, many dealerships have chosen to take buyouts or pushed back on dealership investment requirements needed to sell EVs.
Second, industry-wide delays due to material sourcing are still very much a widespread problem. Supply chain-related delays may have been exacerbated during the pandemic, but they haven’t exactly gone away. In fact, due to the industry being quite new, automakers are scaling up much more quickly than suppliers can, meaning that items like powertrain components and batteries aren’t exactly a commodity that automakers can overnight from Amazon. On top of sourcing issues, quality control and workforce-related problems remain a consistent constraint.
Lastly, many of these new automakers coming online are startups. New vehicle makers have significantly more hurdles to overcome, including building up a service and sales infrastructure that most legacy automakers have had in place for nearly a century. And if these companies aren’t fast enough at finding their place in the market, they’re going to lose public interest to others who can move at a more rapid pace.
This also happens to be legacy auto’s greatest advantage. Because Detroit and the like have many decades of experience in the industry, they are able to use their existing manufacturing infrastructure and expertise to quickly build vehicles at scale, versus a startup souring a partner or manufacturing facility
“If you don’t introduce to the market on time, you’re going to lose market share,” said Akshay Singh, a partner at PwC. “It is a pretty big deal.”
100%: How long have you been waiting for your new car?
As I mentioned above, new car delays have been getting a bit out of hand across the entire industry. While EVs are being blamed, they’re not the only cars being delayed.
Ford’s Maverick, for example, has been a huge letdown for buyers. Ford just can’t build them quickly enough with some folks complaining of a wait time of around a year for their build to be completed. It could be worse, though. You could be an original Cybertruck reservation holder who was expecting their truck to be built in 2021.
So those of you who have been waiting for a new car, how long has your delay (if any) been? Do you see light at the end of the tunnel? Let us know in the comments.