Augusto Amorim, Senior Manager, Americas Vehicle Sales Forecasts

29 May 2020

How will the pandemic impact plans for new players in the US market?

Startups and Chinese brands planning to enter the US market have had to adjust their short-term plans to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdown measures have interrupted the construction of new facilities for some, while the economic consequences of the outbreak are hurting others.

So, what is in store for the key newcomers in the US market?

Bollinger is confident that its electric Pickup and SUV models will roll off the production line later this year, with initial deliveries planned for early 2021. But as the startup has yet to announce a production location, this may be wishful thinking. Michigan is the likely candidate, and we anticipate the start of deliveries in June 2021.

BYTON has furloughed around half of its 450 US employees and reportedly failed to pay its Chinese staff in March. We still expect the M-Byte to launch in July 2021, but we will keep a close eye on how the brand navigates its future, while coping with a potential shortage of funds.

Canoo intends to announce the subscription price of its only model, an egg-shaped electric MPV, by mid-2021, with a launch likely by next October. However, most of the brand’s revenue is set to come from its partnership with Hyundai Group, which will build electrified models on a Canoo platform.

Cruise, GM’s self-driving division, has cut 8% of the workforce across its recruitment, design, and product & business strategy divisions. Its fleet of Autonomous Vehicles has not been in use since March, although some retrofitted versions of the Chevrolet Bolt are serving as food delivery vehicles in San Francisco. We anticipate the launch of a Cruise Small Car next April, but the Origin MPV will not arrive before January 2023.

Fisker should launch sales of the Ocean SUV in January 2022. The company has announced price and technical specifications for the model, but its production location is still unknown.

LMC (no relation!) will debut the Endurance Pickup via a virtual launch this summer, following the cancellation of the Detroit Auto Show. In-motor engines will be supplied by a new Slovenian partner and although LMC has asserted that it will be “handing the keys to fleets across the country in January 2021”, we do not expect the Endurance to arrive until April next year.

Lucid is building a new plant in Arizona. Construction was permitted to continue under the state’s virus containment measures, meaning that the electric Air sedan remains on track for delivery in early 2021. But with the New York Auto Show cancelled, a production model has not yet been unveiled. We expect the Air to hit the market in May 2021.

Hydrogen semi-truck manufacturer Nikola has announced the arrival of an electric Pickup, dubbed the Badger, in September 2020. This strikes us as an unlikely prospect, particularly as ground has not yet been broken for a new plant. A launch date in early 2022 seems more probable. Meanwhile, Nikola has benefited from a US$4.1 million loan under the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

We do not expect Peugeot to launch in the US market until 2026, at which point the pandemic should be over.

Polestar has promised to deliver the Polestar 2 by September, but a delay until January 2021 is a more realistic outcome, given that the OEM is yet to make its official debut in the US and only announced its local retail partners in May, despite appointing its Canadian associate last October.

As a rising star in the electric vehicle market, Rivian has had a bumpy ride so far this year. The brand was forced to suspend preparations at its new factory due to the pandemic, and Ford has cancelled the Lincoln-branded SUV that Rivian was assigned to build. The company has yet to announce when manufacturing will resume, but recent reports suggest that production will kick off in June 2021, which would push the start of sales out to late summer next year, at the earliest.

VANTAS, a new Premium brand exclusive to North America, has not yet announced details of its local production plans, but its vehicles will come in kits from China, making it easier to start assembly. We expect VANTAS models to reach the market in H2 2021.

Given a sharp decline in sales in China, Zotye has postponed plans to sell its affordable SUVs in the US. The importer says that it could revive its plans in two or three years and that the dealership network it was setting up can add VANTAS at no additional cost.

Publicly traded company Workhorse was granted a Certificate of Conformity in March by the Environment Protection Agency, allowing sales, deliveries and operation on US roads. The automaker has also benefited from the PPP scheme, to the tune of US$1.4 million, all of which suggests that its plans to launch sales in Q4 this year will come to fruition.

All that being said, for established players, newcomers and startups alike, the pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works when it comes to planning. As we show in our regularly updated forecasts, frequent adjustments are fast becoming the norm.