If anything demonstrates the allure of the electric-vehicle business, it's the new players jumping in.
They come from all directions: garage tinkerers, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, refugees from big automakers, golf cart makers and forklift retrofitters (really!).
A jaw-dropping entrant appeared this month. During its first-quarter earnings call, megasupplier Magna International Inc. revealed that its 78-year-old founder, Frank Stronach, plans to detach from the company to build batteries, electric vehicles and hybrids.
The deal, which requires shareholder approval, calls for Stronach's trust to give up its supervoting shares in Magna. In return, he gets Magna common stock, cash -- and Magna's investment in an electric-vehicle joint venture under Stronach's effective control.
The joint venture takes with it Magna's E-Car Systems unit -- which has a contract as technology integrator for a Ford electric-vehicle program starting next year, according to a briefing by Magna CFO Vince Galifi. Galifi said the E-Car unit consists of "a talented collection of people that Frank has pulled together."
Knowledgeable sources say that's not hype: Stronach has been hands-on in staffing up for electric and hybrid vehicles.
The deal should boost Magna's share price by giving shareholders control of Magna. It also insulates Magna from the static it surely would face from its automaker customers if it sold electric vehicles itself.
But most of all, it allows Stronach to play in what he clearly sees as a hot segment: vehicle electrification.