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AutoNation sells remaining stake in Vroom, Lucid Motors gets close to going public, and PlusAi raises $200M

Welcome to another edition of The Friday 5 with Steve Greenfield, Founder and CEO of Automotive Ventures, an auto technology advisory firm that helps entrepreneurs raise money and maximize the value of their companies.

Any episode of the Friday Five just wouldn’t be complete without a healthy dose of SPACs.

Believe it or not, so far in 2021, there have been 145 Special Purpose Acquisition Company or SPAC, initial public offerings that have raised more than $44.5 billion dollars. The average deal size was $307 million.

That’s a pace of more than three SPACs per day, every day, including Saturdays and Sundays.

That compares with just 55 traditional IPOs YTD. So, so far this year, SPACs outnumber traditional IPOs by a ratio of almost three-to-one.

For context, 248 SPAC IPOs raised $83 billion in total last year. That deal and dollar volume count was already record-breaking, as it was more than six times the amount raised in 2019 and more than four times the number of SPAC IPOs in 2019.

At this pace, we will smash last year’s record by mid-year.

Lucid Motors

In further SPAC news this week, Lucid Motors is getting close to a deal to go public at a roughly $12 billion valuation. The merger between Lucid and Churchill Capital IV Corp. would be the biggest in a string of deals by EV makers such as Nikola Motor Company and Fisker Inc that have gone public by combining with SPACs.

Churchill Capital IV has initiated talks with investors to raise more than $1 billion by selling shares in a private investment in a public equity transaction for the deal with Lucid. The size of that transaction could reach $1.5 billion or more based on investor demand.


Interestingly, AutoNation announced that it’s sold its remaining stake in Vroom for proceeds of $109M and realized a cash gain of $87M. In total, AutoNation realized a cash gain of $165M from the investment during Q4 of 2020.

Back in October 2018, AutoNation made a $50 million investment in Vroom for 7% of the company, prior to its IPO — which raised some eyebrows in the industry.  At the time they positioned it as a “strategic investment” where AutoNation could learn about online eCommerce.

I’m not certain how we should interpret AutoNation selling out of their stake in Vroom entirely, but that 7% stake today would be worth $441 million dollars, or a 9x return on their initial investment, over a span of just two years.

Swift Navigation

Swift Navigation, focused on Global Navigation Satellite Systems and precise positioning technology for autonomous vehicles, automotive, mobile, and mass-market applications, has raised a $50 million dollar Series-C round of financing led by existing investors New Enterprise Associates, Eclipse Ventures, and new investors, including EPIQ Capital Group and KDDI Open Innovation Fund.

To date, the company has raised a total of $97.6 million in funding.

Swift’s customers across the globe include automotive OEMs, last-mile delivery providers, mobile providers, and those building rail, industrial, micromobility, and IoT platforms for mass-market applications.


SmartHop, an AI-powered app that helps interstate truckers make their routes more efficient and lucrative while removing a lot of the administrative hassle for drivers, has raised $12 million in a Series A round, bringing the company’s total funding to date to $16.5 million.

The round was led by Union Square Ventures. If you don’t subscribe to Fred Wilson’s daily blog, you’re missing out. He’s probably the most insightful VC that I’ve ever come across.


BorgWarner is expanding its electrification portfolio after signing an agreement to acquire AKASOL, a maker of battery systems for commercial and off-road vehicles based in Germany, at a value of 727 million euros, or $880 million dollars.

Under the terms of the agreement, a BorgWarner unit will initiate a voluntary public takeover of all outstanding shares of Akasol, at a price of 120 euros per share, a 23 percent premium to the three-month average price.


Self-driving trucking startup PlusAi raised $200 million in a Series B financing from Chinese investment firm Guotai Junan International, which is based in Hong Kong; London-based venture firm Hedosophia; and Wanxiang Group.

Investors including Menlo Park-based venture firms Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners, as well as the venture arm of Chinese state-owned automaker SAIC Motor Corp, also participated in the deal.

The funding will help the California-based startup as it begins mass production of its self-driving systems this year and aims to fill thousands of preorders from Chinese fleets in a joint effort with Chinese truck manufacturer FAW Jiefang Automotive, part of state-owned China FAW Group.


nextmv, a platform that optimizes and tests decision models for logistics companies, announced the close of an $8 million Series A round, led by existing investor FirstMark Capital.

Other investors include GitHub CTO Jason Warner, Seamless.AI founder Jason Finger, Stripe COO Claire Hughes Johnson, Ankit Agarwal from Greenhawk Capital, as well as other institutional investors such as 2048 Ventures, Dynamo Ventures, and Atypical Ventures.

nextmv simplifies the process of optimizing and testing logistics-focused decision models. Consider a company like Grubhub, which has to weigh a wide variety of priorities each time an order comes through on the platform, from speed of delivery to mileage on the drivers’ cars to overall efficiency.


Metropolis is a new Los Angeles-based startup that’s looking to compete with BMW Group-owned ParkMobile for a slice of the automated parking lot management market.

Upgrading parking with a computer vision-based system that recognizes cars as they enter and leave garages has been Metropolis’ mission since founder and chief executive Alexander Israel first formed the business back in 2017.

Israel, a serial entrepreneur, has spent decades thinking about parking. His last company, ParkMe, was sold to INRIX back in 2015. And it was with those earnings and experience that Israel went back to the drawing board to develop a new kind of parking payment and management service.

The company has raised $41 million in financing in total, led by VC firm 3L.

Enevate Corporation

Enevate Corporation, a specialist in silicon-dominant lithium-ion battery technology, announced $81 million in Series E funding, and $191 million to date, led by Fidelity Investments.

The California-based company is backed by well-known names like Groupe Renault, Nissan Motor Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, LG Chem and Samsung Venture Investment, which indicates a promising solution for electric vehicles.

Enevate focuses on the pure silicon anode to achieve high energy density, extreme fast charging capability (like 5-minute charging to 75% capacity) and reasonable cost and acceptable cycle-life.

Sweetie Boy Delivers

Congratulations to Tyler McCormick and Sweetie Boy Transportation. The Center for Innovative Technology announced that CIT GAP Funds has invested in Sweetie Boy Delivers, a provider of services that help easily transport vehicles from one location to the next for dealerships and consumers.

The CapStreet Group announced the completion of the majority recapitalization of TradePending.

Founded in 2014 and headquartered in North Carolina, TradePending builds software for car dealerships that brings accuracy, transparency, and simplicity to their customers. The solution leverages vehicle pricing data to enable digital retailing, optimizing online conversions, and maximizing profitability for trade-in vehicles.

Congratulation to Brice Englert and the TradePending team!

Companies to Watch

Every week we highlight interesting companies in the automotive technology space to keep an eye on. If you read my monthly industry intel report, I showcase a few companies each month, and we take the opportunity here on the Friday Five to share some of those companies each week with you.

Today, we’ll look at two companies to watch, XCite Automotive and Click-Ins.

Xcite Automotive

Our first company to watch, Xcite Automotive serves over 1,000 dealers and leverages a team of over 400 highly trained field personnel to help dealers upgrade their vehicle merchandising efforts.

With Xcite Automotive, dealers can expect to merchandise their vehicles online faster and more consistently.

Xcite Automotive leverages best-in-class software to create stunning vehicle photos, videos, and 360º virtual walkarounds.

Xcite helps dealers organize and value the most important vehicle features on vehicle descriptions and cements their dealer brand promise at the point of purchase.

Xcite Automotive can even help a dealer upgrade their facility with a world-class studio from carstudiopros.

With the November launch of ReconLogic, Xcite Automotive offers a dealer-centered service that significantly streamlines the reconditioning and merchandising process of preparing vehicle inventory for sale. Now, vehicles can be “retail-ready” in just 5 days or less – a much faster turnaround compared to the 12 to 14 days many dealers experience today.

Xcite Automotive is continuously innovating and can now assist dealers in finding even further efficiencies by consolidating the reconditioning and merchandising processes at the dealership, or offsite in Xcite Automotive managed facilities in select locations.


Our second company to watch this week is Click-ins, software that streamlines the post-sale, pre-F&I delivery experience by unifying the critical touchpoints that drive satisfaction and profitability.

Click-Ins is the next-generation AI automatic vehicle damage inspection solution that enables insurance and automotive companies to automatically detect, analyze and process external vehicle damage, at high precision and consistency, without the need for special equipment or skilled personnel.

Click-Ins’ revolutionary, multidisciplinary technology is based on a combination of AI, deep learning, 3D modeling, applied mathematics, and computer vision — enabling accurate recognition and analysis of external damages to all types of vehicles. Click-Ins processes millions of daily vehicle inspections at 300 milliseconds per vehicle with more than 90% accuracy and repeatability. Their mobile and application APIs can easily be integrated into any of their partners’ platforms.

Click-Ins was founded in 2014 with a mission to automate vehicle inspections, helping insurance and automotive companies increase their reliability and efficiency while improving customer experience. Their team is comprised of highly skilled professionals from the technology, automotive, and insurance sectors bringing their know-how into the company along with experienced business management.

Headquartered in Israel with offices and partners in the USA and Europe, the company’s SaaS platform provides 24/7 service to its worldwide customers.

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Steve Greenfield
Steve Greenfield
Steve is the Founder and CEO of Automotive Ventures, an automotive technology advisory firm that helps entrepreneurs raise money and maximize the value of their companies. They also assist PE firms to conduct due diligence on automotive technology acquisitions, advise technology CEOs on strategy, and help represent sellers at the time of sale.

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