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Wednesday, Apr 24, 2024

OC Insider: Tesla Town

With over 23,000 new Tesla vehicles registered in Orange County through August—the most of any automaker here in 2023, nearly 7,000 vehicles more than No. 2 Toyota, and a nearly 60% increase year-over year—no wonder that Elon Musk’s $820B-valued EV firm (Nasdaq: TSLA) is ramping up its sales and service footprint in the area.

See Emily Santiago-Molina’s automotive column on page 9 for more on Tesla’s local expansion, as well as related stories throughout this edition, as part of the Business Journal’s annual Automotive Review.

Irvine-based EV maker Rivian (Nasdaq: RIVN) has seen the biggest year-over-year bump in local registrations, 882 through August, up 134%, according to data from the OC Automobile Dealers Association. 468 of those registrations came in the last quarter, representing about 3% of the $18B-valued company’s Q3 deliveries.

Rivian’s YTD registrations in OC have outpaced more established brands like Genesis and Cadillac, and are about on par with Acura, according to the OCADA’s figures.

A different type of vehicle from OC recently got Elon Musk’s attention, thanks to Palmer Luckey’s Anduril Industries.

The Costa Mesa-based defense contractor last month unveiled Fury, a next-gen, drone-like product for the military which the tech-heavy firm describes as “a high-performance, multi-mission group 5 autonomous air vehicle.”

“It is capable of pulling 9Gs at Mach 0.95 for a tiny fraction of the cost of similarly performant fighter craft,” Luckey posted on X, previously called Twitter, prompting a few thoughts from Musk.

“Fighter aircraft with actual people in them will seem extremely unwise in retrospect,” Musk replied, before asking Luckey, “What’s holding you back from doing Mach ~1.5? Compressibility drag is lower there than at 0.95.”

“Air density drops exponentially with altitude, whereas speed-based drag is merely a square,” Musk said. “Just get high.”

Luckey responded that the “main thing holding us back is constraints imposed by the pre-existing commercial engine used in this particular aircraft. Keeps costs low and maintainability high, the right choice for this bird.”

“Supersonic is on the roadmap for one of our unannounced vehicles, though!”

Palmer Luckey’s Anduril Industries is getting plenty of attention from the investment community as well.

An article from Bloomberg last week reported that Anduril, founded in 2017, is in talks to raise $400M to $500M in funding from investors in a deal that could value the startup at around $10B.

Anduril was most recently valued at $8.5B, following a funding round completed about a year ago.

Bloomberg reported that the cash infusion would be used to fund more strategic acquisitions; last month saw the firm buy autonomous aircraft developer Blue Force Technologies, it’s second drone-like acquisition to date.

Funds could also go toward research and development efforts, according to the report.
See next week’s print edition of the Business Journal for more on Anduril’s latest developments.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.

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