They say the used car market is hot right now, thanks mostly to the slumping economy. But even a hot market can’t really explain the recent news from CNNMoney that the world’s oldest, still running used car just sold for $4.6 million (http://money.cnn.com/2011/10/10/autos/worlds_oldest_car/index.htm?iid=HP_Highlight). No, this 1884 De Dion-Bouton et Trepardoux, also called “La Marquise,” is a collector’s item and its selling price, according to the report is the “highest price ever paid for an early automobile at auction” and twice what its owners expected. The car certainly offers an interesting look at how automotive technology has changed over the years.
This is, in effect, where car technology started: Its fuel was not gasoline, but powered by steam created by “coal, wood and bits of paper.” Top speed is 38 miles per hour but it takes about a half hour to warm up and create enough power to drive it.
Of course, for our purposes, this is an interesting ignition point for covering some of the new automotive technologies that are powering some small cap stocks. Here are just a few and perhaps we can add to this list in the near future:
Cincinnati-based AMP Electric Vehicles * (OTCBB: AMPD, http://www.ampelectricvehicles.com/) is a young company that currently retrofits those sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and crossovers that Americans love to emission-free pure electric vehicles. AMPD is currently working on the Mercedes Benz SUV ML 350; they drop out the internal combustion engine completely and integrate their proprietary electric drive components into the Mercedes, leaving all the safety and luxury components intact. Drivers tell us that the superb M-B performance is not only undiminished; in some ways it is actually enhanced. CEO Jim Taylor is a former President of GM’s Cadillac division and CEO of its former Hummer division. We anticipate announcements about the Jeep Cherokee as well. The stock trades thinly, as often happens in such early stage companies, and is currently selling for $0.50. Its 52-week high is $1.05.
New Castle, PA-based Axion Power International * (OTCBB: AXPW.OB, http://www.axionpower.com/) manufactures high-performance low-cost lead-carbon (PbC(R)) batteries for a variety of markets, including for “mild” and “micro” hybrid vehicles, which are anticipated to be the commonest form of hybrid in the US within a couple of years (and it already is the most common in Europe). Its PbC batteries are as easy to manufacture as the older lead-acid batteries, but they use activated carbon instead of half the lead. They are lighter and 100% recyclable (unlike lithium ion batteries), and have a higher charge acceptance and faster recharging rates, making them ideal for the growing micro-hybrid and mild hybrid markets. AXPW stock closed Oct. 10 $0.51, near the low end of its 52-week range ($0.42-$1.27).
San Carlos, CA-based Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA, http://www.teslamotors.com/) manufactures the Tesla Roadster and other electric vehicles and electric powertrain components. With a market cap of $2.9 billion it’s really out of our smallcap focus, but it certainly should be included in even a brief survey of new automotive technologies. Its stock was highest (more than $35) about a year ago but like many companies now is languishing. It closed Oct. 10 at $27.80.
Northville, MI-based Amerigon * (Nasdaq: ARGN, http://www.amerigon.com/) is the world’s leading marketer of thermoelectric technologies for automobiles and is best known for its actively heated and cooled seat systems featured in more than 50 vehicles. But it is winning new headlines for a thermoelectric generator (TEG) that the company is developing with partners including BMW, Ford and Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Lab. The TEG converts waste exhaust heat into electricity, a technology that has been shown to reduce toxic emissions and increase fuel economy along with providing a much needed new source for electricity in a vehicle. The TEG is currently being tested in a BMW X6 and Lincoln MKT. The stock closed Oct. 10 at $14.02, down from its $18.18 high for the past year, but above the $9.33 low.
Oak Park, MI-based Azure Dynamics (Toronto: AZD.TO, http://www.azuredynamics.com/) develops and manufactures electric power trains for light and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, including vans and buses. The company is best known for partnering with Ford and building the electric drivetrains for the all-electric Ford Transit Connect. Azure recently announced that it is enrolling Ford truck dealerships across North America to be electric Transit Connect dealers and service centers, the sale of 100 electric Transit Connect vans in Europe, and the sale of 34 electric Transit Connect to municipalities and a regional governmental authority in North America. Its stock closed Oct. 10 at $0.15 with a 52-week range of $0.11-$0.41.
* Denotes client of Allen & Caron, Inc., publisher of this blog