Look at you, you marvel of late stage capitalism, you. You’ve surveyed the financial landscape and seen billions and billions of dollars pour into the EV space in recent years, seen the TSLAs and APPLs and GMEs of the world rise and split and rise again, and you’ve decided you’re due a piece of the action. The fact that you have no idea how to build a car — or a car company — doesn’t bother you at all, either, because this isn’t about actually building cars, it’s about getting rich. Maybe even quick. Along the way, you might hurt some people. Heck — let’s be honest with each other: hurting people is part of the plan. And why should you feel bad about it? Buyer beware, caveat emptor, seize deez nuts, amirite?
Of course I’m right. Greed is good, Gordon. You and your crooked crew of cronies are going to get rich with your hot new EV startup scam, and this is how you’re going to do it.
STEP 1 — Identify People Who Are Hurting
This is the first and most important step in your new vehicle startup scam. People who are hurting will do anything to stop hurting — whether that’s day drinking, pill-popping, or sending their hard-earned money to anyone, ANYONE who offers them salvation from their dreary day-to-day. The best way for you to find lots and lots of people who are hurting? Find you a factory town without a factory.
That’s right, my degenerate friend, a factory town without a factory. Look in the rust belt for a big GM or Ford factory that’s been recently shut down, then write up some PR about how you’re the guy — you’ve got a plan, a vision, and a real need to reopen that plant. You have to have that plant, too, because you want to tap into all that knowledge and experience that was left behind when the factory closed. You need people who know how to build cars, and here you have a great big car-building building and a town full of car-building people who know how to build cars. If those people feel like they already know you — like, let’s say you used to work for that same big car company — that’s ideal!
STEP 2 — Start Making Promises
You know what else is ideal? Jobs! You’re going to promise those hurting, desperate people that they’ll get their jobs back. Not just their old jobs, either — but better jobs. Why will they be better? That’s not important right now, kid — you’re just making promises here! No one’s getting their job back, anyway.
Next, you’re going to get those people to buy their own factory from the manufacturer that closed it, and sign it over to you.
Sound crazy? It’s easy — just go to the mayor, the governor, and the city councils and get them on board by explaining things in simple terms. You need a factory to build your cars, and you’ll need workers to fill the factory. These politicians want workers to have jobs, right? You don’t want the people voting for you to not have jobs, do you?
Of course not! Now dig into those taxpayer-filled coffers and buy up the factory so you can start building some cars! But — wait — what kind of cars are you going to build?
STEP 3 — Keep It Simple, Too Simple
This is an important step. Your marks aren’t smart people who actually know about cars — those people will see right through your bullshit and never give you a dime. You want those desperate, hurting people who are also just a little bit simple. Not stupid, of course. Simple. People who simple say things like, “If they’d just …” or, “All they have to do is …” when faced with massive, national-level issues like unemployment, prison overpopulation, abortion, etc. They see the world as a simple place, with simple solutions that have been overlooked by “the elite,” who would be better served by listening to “the little guy,” just once. “The engineers should just listen to the guy on the shop floor,” they say — that guy knows how to solve problems, in a simple way … and he is your mark.
So, how do you get him to invest? How do you get that sad, simple dude to not just send you his own money, but actually lobby for his town and his government — heck, maybe even his President to send you money, too? You make him feel smart by over-simplifying a complicated technology.
You can do this one of two ways.
The first is to look to a technology from the past. One that’s just far enough in the rearview mirror to feel nostalgic about — like the carbureted engine from a late-80s Honda CRX HF, for example. “Those engines were bulletproof,” you might say, “and they got 50+ miles per gallon even way back then!” Follow that up with claims that seem true but have zero basis in fact. Stuff like, “It’s old technology that’s already been developed, so we have zero R&D costs.” Toss in some new-sounding techno-jargon like “range-extending generator” and “eliminates range anxiety.” Don’t forget “the best of both worlds!” at the end for good measure. And you’ve got yourself a winning con.
The second is to look ahead into a future that will never be. You can do that by focusing in on an obscure technology piece that smart people have already turned their backs on, but which looked like it might have held some promise a few years ago. Some weird number of wheels (anything but four) or hub-mounted motors are good. Following the same formula from the “nostalgia tech” play, you can say stuff like, “You can design a car to look like anything you want, and toss these cool hub motors in, too.” You can even throw the shade-tree mechanics a bone by saying, “They’re so simple to work on. You just undo four bolts and pull it off the car!” Ignore the extreme vulnerability of wheels and the fact that you probably couldn’t come up with an objectively worse place to put an electric motor. If you’re promising jobs, hope, AND you’re making your marks feel smart, what does it matter? You’ve got yet another winning con.
STEP 4 — Sell The Dream
At some point, you’re going to have to start selling cars. You don’t want to sell any actual cars, though — this is a scam, remember? Besides, actual cars are expensive to build, and they’re hard to build, too. You don’t want to do stuff that’s expensive and hard, do you? Of course not! What you want to do is sell pre-orders.
Pre-orders are great, because they allow you to collect real money in exchange for fake promises. With that in mind, you’ll want to reach out to those same desperate, simple people who bought you a factory and ask them to pre-order one of your scam cars. Why would they do that after already giving you a factory? Well, no one’s going to invest in a car company if no one wants to buy its cars, will they? You need to create some buzz, and if they want their jobs back, they’re going to have to help you build that buzz.
STEP 5 — Go On The Road
This part’s going to be tough, but you can do it. You need to build one or two of these things you’re trying to sell, and you’re going to have to show off your new car to the press. Don’t worry, though — because I am going to teach you the magic words to get a positive review out of just about anyone in the modern media. Are you ready? Here it is: This is just a proof-of-concept and we’re still a few years away from a final production version. Once we have our team in place and our factory up and running, we’d love to fly you out to drive the first one off the line.
Did you write that down? Good! Now say that to everyone who points out that your car sucks and will never work. Embrace the suckage. Be one with the sucking. Revel in it, because it’s just a concept. You’re still a few years away from a final version, and that one won’t suck, right? Right? (wink-wink)
STEP 6 — Pay Yourself Well And Buy A House
You’re a big-time car executive now. You’re the CEO of a major company that’s working to bring jobs back to an economically battered region (shit, that’s good — write that one down, too).
What I’m getting at is this: you deserve a big salary, so write yourself a big check with all that fancy pre-order money you’ve got coming in. While you’re at it, don’t forget to travel to major auto shows in Los Angeles, Miami, Las Vegas, and New York. You’ll have to stay at nice hotels while you’re there, too, right? The company should pay for that, not you. After all, that’s what the other big time CEOs do, and they aren’t even trying to bring the jobs back to — I dunno, let’s say Louisiana or Texarkana or wherever.
Now that I mention it, you’re probably going to have to relocate. After all, you can’t live in Detroit and run a company three or four or seven states away, can you? Of course not — but you can’t just expect the company to buy you a house. You know what you can do, though? You can get the company to buy a house for itself and rent it out to you for nothing. Heck, real estate’s an investment! That’s smart for the company — it’s better than having the company perpetually pay your hotel bills, right?
Thanks for looking out for the company, you titan of industry. You financial demigod. You hero of the downtrodden. Nice. Ly. Done.
STEP 7 — Tank The Whole Thing
Oops! There was a little bookkeeping SNAFU and things are way worse than they seemed. Maybe every time you took an order, you wrote it down and you told your sales manager and they wrote it down, and now you only have half as many orders as you thought. The point is: unless you get many many more millions of dollars, this new EV startup just is not going to work out.
That’s OK. Building cars is hard, and the hurting, helpful people you conned? They kind of secretly already knew that, so they won’t even be that mad — and they’ll never, ever admit that they got conned.
On the bright side, all of those pre-orders aren’t binding. You made sure of that (I hope!), so it’s not like you have to actually give people the car that they gave you money for. Even better, they can’t come take back your salary either — and, if you’re lucky — they may not even notice that you’re still living in that nice new house the company bought for itself and not for you. It’s a win-win, in that you won twice!
STEP 8 — Set Up The Next Scam
Man, this really worked out, didn’t it? You made a ton of money, and maybe even some good friends along the way. Wouldn’t it be great if you could keep this gravy train rolling? Today’s your lucky day, kid, because I’m going to tell you what to do next. Do you have any BIPOC friends? No — of course not. Sorry, I forgot who I was talking to. They wouldn’t play well with the simple marks anyway, would they? How about some women friends?
If you’ve somehow managed to avoid getting wrapped up in a frivolous #metoo sort of lawsuit and have one or two women in your life, make sure to install one of them as CEO after you step down from the role in disgrace. Make sure it’s in disgrace, because no one would ever try to rip people off and get away with millions of ill-gotten dollars if it meant they’d be disgraced, right?
Grace is important! Jackie O. had grace.
Now you’re gone, and there’s some woman running your startup. The nerve, right? Wrong! As a woman-owned company, your “old” company, is now eligible for a number of government grants that your pasty white male ass could only ever dream of getting. Help make sure she gets every single penny that’s coming to her, and use that to open the factory and create jobs.
HaahAHahaaaHhAa! I’m just kidding! She can’t build your car without your intellectual property, and you still own that, don’t you? She’s going to use that money to license that IP back from you so that she can start unraveling your mess and actually build cars. She’s there to look out for the shareholders — the poor, innocent shareholders! — and is definitely not just in it for the huge salary that she’s now paying herself with that tax money, right?
Once you get to this point, you’re on your own — but I got you this far, kiddo. I’m sure you can take it from here. Maybe you can try to effectively nationalize the company by getting some kind of government contract? Who’s making postal vans these days? Not your company? Maybe you didn’t get that gig because your CEO is a woman. Try suing someone, and bonus points if someone compares you to Preston Tucker.
Original satire from CleanTechnica.
Featured image: Charles Ponzi, public domain