Fisker is in trouble. While we've heard that some other automakers may be interested in giving the EV startup a lifeline, the California headquarters has closed in the meantime and contract manufacturer Magna says it's not planning to make any more Ocean SUVs. And for Magna, that also means job cuts. 

Welcome back to Critical Materials, your daily roundup for all things EV and automotive tech. Today, we're talking about Apple's rumored deal with Rivian, Magna's big Fisker-drivem layoff, and the feds probing Tesla for information about its Autopilot recall. Let's dig in.

30%: An Apple-Rivian Tie-Up?

AI rendering of the Apple Car.

Before we get to Fisker, let's talk Apple. And Rivian. 

"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated," was a Mark Twain quote former Apple CEO Steve Jobs paraphrased at a presentation in 2008. Now, that same joke is being circulated as Apple's Project Titan faces death and resurrection on a fairly regular basis—and in case you're wondering, just like Taco Bell's Nacho Fries, the Apple Car may be back (again).

The Apple Car, presumed dead following a previous report regarding the internal disbandment of Project Titan, is apparently still kicking—or, at least it may be looking for a new home. A new report from Taiwanese DigiTimes suggests that Apple may be in talks with an existing automaker to bring its vehicle to market.

The report notes that speculation has begun to travel up and down the automotive supply chains that Apple is “assessing the possibility of teaming up with a certain U.S. EV startup, and Rivian is a very likely candidate.”

Clearly, some skepticism is warranted here. DigiTimes has a good track record with supply chain leaks, but this isn't exactly a confirmed report from the Associated Press or Reuters. 

The extent of the partnership's talks isn't spelled out in DigiTimes' report. Speculation points at the possibility of Rivian helping to revive the Apple car under its manufacturing umbrella, perhaps similar to how Sony and Honda partnered for the Afeela brand.

Unfortunately, DigiTimes' report is unsubstantiated beyond the rumors in the automotive supply chain industry, though the publication does have a good track record of its supply chain rumors being proved in the past.

Choosing Rivian does feel weird, as the automaker doesn't currently offer Apple CarPlay in its vehicles—though supply chain-level talks would not likely be about CarPlay, and instead something larger.

On the flip side, Rivian could use the cash. The automaker is working to cut costs as it approaches the launch of its next-generation vehicle, the R2. Rivian even chose to walk back its plans to begin R2 production at its $5 billion Georgia plant in the name of savings, instead starting it at the existing facility in Normal, Illinois.

If Rivian were selected as a partner for something like this—or if the Apple Car isn't as dead as everyone thought—a potentially lucrative deal could be worked out for both parties. Rivian gets the cash, and Apple gets its automotive arm overnight. If things play out, that is.

60%: Magna Lays Off 500 Workers After Fisker Production Pause

Following the latest round of Fisky business, Magna has announced that it will lay off 500 workers as the auto industry cools according to a report from Automotive News.

Originally, Magna anticipated manufacturing between 20,000 and 23,000 Fisker Oceans each year. In 2023, it built just about 10,000 units. With the pause of Ocean production remaining into the foreseeable future, the annual output reduction equates to nearly a quarter of Magna's current annual production output. For comparison, the company's 2023 Q4 output was 21,400 vehicles across all of its contracts. Magna expects to take a $400 million hit for 2024 revenue now that Fisker may be circling the drain.

But it's not just Fisker to blame this time. Although Magna has officially pressed pause on the production of the Fisker Ocean, it isn't the only vehicle that will end its product lifecycle this year. Magna also builds the BMW 5-Series, Jaguar E-Pace, and Jaguar I-Pace—all of which will end their product lifecycles at the end of this model year. From a forward-looking perspective, the BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra sister cars will end production in 2026.

"The next three years will be very difficult in Graz," said Magna Steyr CEO Roland Prettner in an interview with Austria's Kleine Zeitung. He continued, noting that the company expects to recover with additional contracts after that time.

The reality for Magna is a bit eye-opening. The company originally anticipated a sharp uptick in manufacturing as new EVs enter the space, especially given its potential annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles. However, new contracts haven't materialized, and that includes work for legacy OEMs that it's already doing business with, like BMW.

90%: Feds Demand Autopilot Effectiveness Data From Tesla

Tesla Autopilot (Vision-Based)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is demanding Tesla hand over information regarding the effectiveness of the automaker's 2023 over-the-air software recall issued for more than 2 million cars.

A letter published by NHTSA on Tuesday said that it has "several concerns" over the remedy Tesla implemented as part of the recall, namely that 20 crashes have occurred after installing the update—meaning that the agency may be questioning how effective the solution was to addressing "Tesla’s weak driver engagement system."

NHTSA is demanding that Tesla provide them with a laundry list of data points, including vehicle details like year, model, and VIN, as well as if the cabin camera is installed, if the vehicle received any strikes, strikeouts, or suspensions while on Autopilot, and whether or not its Full Self-Driving Supervised/Beta was installed on the car.

Separately, the agency also demanded Tesla provide the number of hands-on-wheel warnings displayed to drivers. The data is requested in pre-formatted, multi-part data files, presumably so statistics of pre-recall and post-recall vehicles can be compared to judge if Tesla's new push for driver monitoring has been effective at curbing Autopilot misuse.

Misuse of Tesla's driver-assistance feature has been directly in the sights of NHTSA since it first launched its safety probe in August 2021. According to the agency, "foreseeable driver misuse of the system" played a role in at least 13 crashes, involving at least one death.

Tesla has until July 1 to provide the requested information.

100%: What's Your Take On The Apple Car, Anyway?

AI rendering of the Apple Car.

Apple Car this, Apple Car that—we've heard about it for years. But after a decade of development, the Cupertino-based electronics giant pulled the plug on the project and its engineers repurposed to work on AI. Still, it hurts to think about all the effort that will never see the light of day.

Or will it? I mean, if smartphone rival Xiaomi can build a very successful car, what's keeping Apple from doing it too?

So, internet, this is where you come in. Let me know your over-under on whether or not the Apple car will ever hit the roads, or if you're tired of hearing about it all together.

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