Never Mind That Bailout: Venture Funding for Auto Innovation Accelerates As Startups Race to Leave Detroit in its Own Dust

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about getting our company into high-volume production,” Wilbur says. The CEO, who joined Aptera in September after spending most of his career working for the auto industry in Detroit, says most of the U.S. automotive startups are based in California.

“The clustering is clearly in California, the trendsetters are in California,” Wilbur says. But let’s not be too narrow on this one, because it is not just in the U.S. It’s a global trend. There are automotive startups in Korea, China, Israel, Europe, all over the world.”



Venture Capital Investments in Motor Vehicles and Auto Parts

Year No. of Deals Total Invested (in millions)
2003 5 $8.13
2004 3 $10.6
2005 5 $46.1
2006 9 $96.38
2007 15 $148.47
2008(9 mos) 24 $250.32

Biggest VC Deals in Autos, Parts, in 2008 (Jan. 1-Sept. 30)

Startup No. of Deals Total Invested (in millions)
A123 Systems (Advanced batteries) 1 $102
Fisker Automotive (Hybrid-electric car) 2 $85
Vehicle Production Group (Taxicab maker) 1 $40
Dash Navigation (Web-enabled GPS) 1 $30.2
Segway (Personal transport) 3 $15.5
Miles Electric Vehicles (All-electric cars) 1 $15
Transonic Combustion (Advanced engines) 1 $14
ISE Corp. (Hybrid-electric buses and trucks) 1 $17.5
Brammo (Electric motorcycle) 1 $10
PAX Streamline (Energy-efficient designs) 1 $6
EcoMotors (Advanced diesel engine) 2 $5.24

Source: The MoneyTree Report by the National Venture Capital Association, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, based on data from Thomson Reuters.

*A123 Systems was added by the editors of Xconomy. The MoneyTree Report did not include it as a startup in either motor vehicle or parts category. MoneyTree counted Segway Systems, however, as a deal in the motor vehicles category.

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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