Arrival becomes latest electric vehicle startup to test the public markets with a SPAC

Arrival has gone from stealthy electric vehicle startup to prospective public company in a span of a year. The UK-based company, which operated in relative secrecy for several years until January when it announced a $110 million investment from Hyundai and Kia, said Wednesday it has agreed to merge with special purpose acquisition company CIIG Merger Corp.

Arrival was already considered one of the UK’s most valuable startups before Wednesday’s SPAC merger announcement.  This deal, which when completed will make Arrival a publicly traded company listed on the Nasdaq exchange, will push its valuation up to $5.4 billion. Arrival said it raised $400 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE, from investors that included Fidelity Management & Research Company, Wellington Management, BNP Paribas Asset Management Energy Transition Fund and funds managed by BlackRock. Arrival will have about $660 million in cash proceeds.

Arrival’s aim is to produce electric vehicles that are competitive in price with traditional fossil fuel-powered vehicles and lower than other EVs. Arrival says its modular electric “skateboard” platform, which can be used on a range of different vehicle types, along with its use of microfactories set up near major cities are the key ingredients to its price competitive sauce.

The company already has working prototypes of two major vehicle lines — an electric bus and electric van. The plan is to have four vehicles in the market by 2023, Arrival Automotive CEO Mike Ableson said.

“We are building a strong order book for these products, including 10,000 electric vans from UPS with the additional option to order more thereafter,” Ableson said in an email to TechCrunch. “We are in the process of fitting out microfactories in the UK and the US to fulfill orders, with more in the pipeline.”

Going public via a SPAC will give Arrival the access to capital to achieve its “vision of reimagining the auto industry and accelerating the transition to zero emissions,” he said, noting that the company is now focused on executive and ramping up full production of vehicles with production of its buses starting in the fourth quarter 2021 and its vans in 2022.

“The capital raised from this transaction will go towards delivering on these plans and supercharging the business so we can continue to scale and fulfill the market potential,” Ableson said.

Arrival, which was founded and led by Denis Sverdlov, already has a considerable footprint and order book. Arrival says it has received $1.2 billion in orders. The company employs more than 1,200 people and has five engineering facilities and two microfactories, including its first U.S. location in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

What was the summer of the SPAC — a bevy of companies announcing mergers with publicly traded shell companies between June and mid-September — has extended into the fall. Dozens of companies, including those that have yet to generate revenue or launch a commercial product, have announced SPAC deals in the past few months. A growing number of them are companies in the capitally intensive transportation sector.

EV startups Canoo,  Fisker Inc., Lordstown Motors and Nikola Corp., eschewed the traditional path of becoming a public company.  ChargePoint as well as lidar companies Luminar and Velodyne have also merged, or in the process of merging, with SPACs. Even troubled electric automaker Faraday Future is seeking a SPAC deal.

Arrival, like its EV SPAC brethren, is keen to take advantage of the shift towards electrification. Arrival is homing in on the commercial vehicle market, which is quickening its pace of EV adoption thanks to increasingly strict emissions regulations and other public policy changes.

“Arrival believes that it is well positioned to capitalize on this market opportunity with its technology driven approach to a traditionally underserved market,” Ableson said.

The newly combined company will be listed on the Nasdaq under the new ticker symbol “ARVL.” The combined company will add Peter Cuneo, CIIG’s Chairman and CEO, as the non-executive chairman of Arrival’s board of directors.