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The Car Companies at the LA Auto Show You’ve Never Heard Of

Published on Mon, Nov 26, 2018

By: Roy Nakano

The Los Angeles Auto Show of 2018 is brimming with the names of new small car companies, many who are vying to be the next Tesla.

From November 30th through December 9th, it’s the Los Angeles Auto Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center—one of the largest such shows in the world. Along with all the big car companies, it’ll be brimming with the names of little car companies—new companies, many who are vying to be the next Tesla in the USA.

It may seem like ancient history, but before Tesla became a household name, it was just another new and unknown start-up. Very few start-up car companies have sprung up and survived within the past 50 years, but the dream persists. Here are the car companies you most likely have never heard of which will be bandied about at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

Top of page: Rivian R1T pickup truck. Rivian says you can fit a surfboard in the compartment just behind the doors.


Rivian unveils its new electric pickup truck and SUV at the Los Angeles Auto Show (AKA Automobility LA for the L.A. Auto Show’s press preview). When we first heard about Rivian, it was accompanied by derisive or confused comments along the lines of “who are these guys, and who wants an electric pickup?” (Editor’s note: It’s not a completely new concept, many urban-duty fleets have been operating all-electric vehicles both here and abroad with great success.) As far as who these people are, an impressive group has been assembled from sources as disparate as McLaren and Nike. Our skepticism was replaced by awe when we learned the vehicles had a claimed range of 400 miles, could do 0-60 mph in the 3-second territory, pull a load of 11,000 pounds, and climb an incline of 45 degrees. Now if only Rivian can deliver on the promises.

The Rivian R1S SUV has an electric propulsion range of 400 miles


Co-founded by former BMW and Nissan executives, BYTON is the name of the first brand under the Chinese company, Future Mobility Corporation. BYTON is using the LA Auto Show venue to introduce the M-Byte, its first production vehicle for the USA, and the K-Byte, a concept vehicle with Level 4 autonomous driving technology. Both vehicles utilize a signature multi-function display screen that spans the width of the dashboard. BYTON will provide demonstration rides at the LA Auto Show.

BYTON will introduce its M-Byte SUV at the LA Auto Show.

Automotive for Alexa

Of course, everyone who’s ever bought anything from has heard of Alexa, the virtual assistant created by the mega-giant to ask for weather conditions, buy Amazon products, and turn on the light in the living room. What you may not know is there’s an Automotive for Alexa division that ready to do to cars what Amazon’s Alexa-driven Echo has done for the home. And you can bet there is no shortage of cash for this endeavor.

Lucid Motors

Lucid Motors is a Silicon Valley-based electric car company. Lucid will tell you that its first sedan, the Air, redefines luxury mobility by combining forward looking design with groundbreaking technology. Lucid is currently working toward a production version of the Air.


Silvercar is an app-based, premium mobility service focused on the development and delivery of premium Audis that meet the mobility needs of the future consumer. In addition to the infusion from Audi, Silvercar received backing from Eduardo Saverin (Co-founder of Facebook), Dave Morin (Founder of Path), and Chris Dixon (General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz) before being acquired by Audi in 2017.


Andre Haddad loves cars, the consumer web, and the environment, and Turo combines all three of his into one company. passions into perfect harmony. Formerly RelayRides, Turo is a peer-to-peer carsharing company. The company allows private car owners to rent out their vehicles via an online and mobile interface. Before joining Turo as CEO, Andre was CEO of Prior to, he was Senior Vice President, Product at eBay, where he was responsible for product management, design, and research at eBay’s global marketplace business.


Maven is a great hipster name for a carsharing service spawned by General Motors. Maven was introduced after GM’s acquisition of select assets and employees from Sidecar, along with the company’s investment in car sharing service Lyft. The head of the group was GM Vice President Julia Steyn, GM’s head of urban mobility, who had previously been GM’s vice president of corporate development and global mergers and acquisitions.


Zotye is said to become the first Chinese company to sell vehicles un the USA under its own Chinese brand name. The company will be based in Lake Forest, California, and is said its search for dealers is said to be underway. Zotye’s first USA product will be an SUV. The details about the model are forthcoming.


File this under new car companies that almost made it to the Los Angeles Auto Show. VinFast is the first volume automotive manufacturer from Vietnam. The company unveiled two models from the brand at the recent Paris Motor Show—the LUX A2.0 sedan and the LUX SA2.0 SUV. Deliveries of the first VinFast sedan and SUV cars are scheduled to commence in Vietnam before the end of the year. In addition, VinFast representatives say it is developing a wide range of vehicles, including electric cars, city cars, electric buses, and electric scooters. The company also plans to export its products to international markets in the coming years. – Roy Nakano and Bill Wright

You can see the BYTON’s K-Byte sedan at the LA Auto Show.

AutoMobility LA’s Top Ten Startups

The Los Angeles Auto Show has its own list of car-related companies you have yet to hear of. “AutoMobility LA’s Top Ten Startups” will be judged by a panel that includes Audi, Plug and Play, Porsche Consulting, Sansea Consulting, and Sirius XM Connected Vehicles alongside the LA Auto Show executive team.

Previous finalists, such as and HAAS Alert, have gone on to receive significant funding rounds after participating in the competition.

The team of jurors will then narrow the list down to three finalists and a grand prize winner. On Tuesday, November 29th, the winner was announced: Thor Trucks. The company received a live, on-stage advisor session with influencers in the technology and automotive industries that afternoon. Here are the AutoMobility LA Top Ten Startups, in their own words:

AEye – A robotics perception pioneer and creator of iDAR™, AEye is a new form of intelligent data collection that acts as the eyes and visual cortex for autonomous vehicles.

Affectiva – An MIT Media Lab spin-off, Affectiva is the leading provider of Human Perception AI – software that detects complex and nuanced human emotions and cognitive states from the face and voice.

Carmera – is building the world’s most robust street intelligence platform, specializing in large-scale “living” high-definition maps for autonomous vehicles.

DarwinAI – is a deep learning software company focused on optimization and “explainability” for neural networks. The company’s technique ingests deep-learning networks and provides multiple highly-optimized versions of it.

EVA – is a company developing the first compact electric and autonomous vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Freer Logic – is a developer of leading-edge technology that reads your brain (neurotechnology) from the headrest of your car and can detect whether you are too distracted or drowsy to drive safely.

Metamoto – enables companies to safely and comprehensively validate AV software in the virtual world before hitting public roads. Metamoto’s innovative, on-demand simulation solutions outpace physical testing by orders of magnitude and help make AVs a near-term reality.

Metawave – delivers WARLORDTM, a smart radar platform, for safe Level 3 and 4 autonomous driving in all weather conditions.

Thor Trucks – an LA-based commercial electric mobility startup, Thor Trucks tackles fleet management problems; their first product is an all-electric semi called the ET-One.

what3words – is the first addressing system designed for voice input. The company currently partners with some of the largest brands in the automotive and mobility industries.

Thor Trucks is the grand prize winner of the Top Ten Startups award. Above: The electric Thor ET-ONe.
Thor Trucks is the grand prize winner of the Top Ten Startups award. Above: The electric Thor ET-ONe.

Read LACar’s “Los Angeles Auto Show Preview

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