Alpha Motor Corporation is nominally an electric vehicle startup. It has spent the last year pumping out retro-futuristic design after retro-futuristic design, one of which just won the award at this year’s LA Auto Show for best electric coupe. But for every new vehicle design Alpha Motor Corporation has released, there are more questions left unanswered. How is the startup funded? What are its plans to build these vehicles? What exactly is Alpha Motor Corporation?
Bengt Halvorson at Green Car Reports put up a mighty effort trying to track down some of those answers in August. He found some, sort of — it appears that the startup was founded, and perhaps funded, by the same person (or people behind) another EV startup called Neuron, which had ties to China but disappeared from the US startup scene as quickly as it arrived. (Alpha Motor says there’s no relationship.) But he also turned up even more questions, like: why are two auto show baristas apparently moonlighting as Alpha Motor’s spokespeople?
Those two men — Joshua Boyt and Jay Lijewski — now say they are full time Alpha Motor employees. Boyt is the head of business development, and Lijewski the head of marketing. I recently spent about 35 minutes talking to them via video call in an attempt to answer some of the questions Halvorson (and, in May, former InsideEVs reporter Gustavo Ruffo) tried to answer.
Yet another mysterious EV startup
Boyt and Lijewski made a few admissions. They said the startup does not currently have any drivable prototypes and that there is no parent company above the Alpha Motor corporate entity registered in Delaware. But they remained tight-lipped about pretty much everything else — funding, the size of the team, or why Alpha Motor shares a registered address with Neuron EV.
Boyt said they’re “really not trying to do anything that confuses or misleads people,” and that they are just trying to build a “different kind of company.” Considering how many well-funded EV startups have found themselves under investigation for potentially overpromising or misleading investors, maybe that’s the safer move when there’s still billions of dollars flowing into the space.
Playing the “mysterious EV startup” can sometimes help capture some of that money. But so far, Alpha Motor is demonstrating there’s a razor-thin line between being properly cautious and intentionally muddy about what, exactly, the new company is up to.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
I, like many people, have seen a lot of the designs that Alpha has put out. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the LA Auto Show, but I saw you guys won one of the awards there. There’s obviously a lot of attention on the startup in some ways. So I just want to know more about what’s going on. I know that there’s not a lot of information about the origins of this startup, how it plans to execute on any of the things that we’ve seen. So I’m just looking for more answers on all that.
Joshua Boyt: Sure. Well, I mean, obviously, a lot of what we’re doing is intentional. I mean, we definitely put a lot of thought and care into everything that we do, as kind of expressed in the designs that have been put out. Our real goal, again, is just creating cars we think people will love. And we want to create a different kind of company. I mean, there’s a lot of people in this space kind of moving within historically... traditional methods, especially in terms of automotive, and we really just want to be a different kind of company. And so, for that reason, we’ve been a lot more strategic on what kind of information we share, how we release our vehicles and when. But again, it’s all meant for a specific purpose, to make sure that we are in control of what it is that we... the narrative is, and what it is we do as we develop a company.
“we really just want to be a different kind of company”
Jay Lijewski: Yeah, and there’s a couple of different ways to go about building a company. Especially at this stage of the timeline. We could have chosen to remain extremely stealth and not put any vehicles out until we were ready to go. Vehicle designs, that is. But we decided to put as much information, vehicle designs, design ethos out there as we could simply because we can. And we can’t help ourselves but put these vehicle designs out there to see what the public is interested in. That can help us steer the company’s trajectory, kind of knowing what people will like before we get to the production phase.
Okay. Is the company something you guys joined that was already in process? Or is it something that you two created?
Lijewski: Yeah, we so we joined when the company was already formed. Like many folks, I personally fell in love with a particular design that Alpha put out months ago — it was the Jax, I fell in love with the Jax — and at that particular time, I was working on an online event that was meant to serve as a humanitarian effort to raise awareness on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
So I was working on this project to just kind of change the narrative on what people know and think about the country of Yemen. And I had noticed after falling in love with the Jax that Alpha... our mission here is “move humanity.” And at that particular time, Alpha was trying to share their platform for causes just like the Yemen project that I was working on. And so I sent an email to [Alpha] and they picked it up and they shared it on their platform, and I was really impressed by that. And so that started a natural kind of organic conversation and me and Joshua had some in-depth talks with the team at Alpha and we joined, what about four months ago, Joshua?
“We were just drawn by the design”
Boyt: Yeah, formally I think it was around September, I believe. But we’ve been involved with the project for some time. And obviously, same thing. We were just drawn by the design. We worked in automotive for some some time as well and [have] done a lot of things in marketing and different support in our career. And we’ve always been enticed by the idea of mission, and companies that are driven by heart and driven by a bigger objective than just monetary return. And I think it’s pretty evident as we worked with the team and met with everybody there that the goal really is to just... is part of creating an ecosystem, not just really great cars, which obviously is something, but connecting people and the way that we live, and using our platform, again, to create visibility for philanthropic uses and for connectivity. I think that’s a very admirable trait about the company.
Boyt: And the other piece is I think there’s a lot in the strategy that we’ve learned working with the company of really not trying to do anything that confuses or misleads people. Like, we really want to stick to a strategy of being very confident and cautious because we don’t want to build hype. Like nothing we’ve done... even, you mentioned the award, winning the award [at the LA Auto Show], we’ve not promoted anything. And I mean, we’ve got between like, two of our posts of cars that we launched, we have over a million views on YouTube. Because we’re focusing on the things that we love, we’re focusing on products that we think people will love, and building a great company. So I think that ambition is really proving itself. Being a little bit more strategic on how we’re revealing information, again, is because we don’t want to be self promoting. We don’t want to be marketing ourselves, so to speak, but really just kind of leaving an open door for people to access information.
“we can’t reveal everybody that’s involved”
You mentioned the team at Alpha a couple of times. Who is the team at Alpha?
Boyt: We have a pretty good group, for reasons of where we are as a company, we can’t reveal everybody that’s involved. Some of that information is public knowledge on the internet. We’ve seen a couple posts recently of people mentioning some of the team members, but unfortunately, we can’t reveal everybody that’s involved right now, but as we do get to that spot, we’ll definitely make sure you guys know.
Can you say how big the team is?
Boyt: How big the team is? Um, I can’t. It’s... we’ve got a lot of people that are working in different departments, obviously, PR, business development, engineering. We’ve just recently been putting a bunch of stuff out about our design centers and our battery, extended life batteries that we’ll be using for mobile use. The team’s working hard on a lot of stuff. But again, yeah, we can’t really...
Lijewski: The individuals who are in a spot where they can share their involvement with the company, they’re all on LinkedIn right now. We’re all on LinkedIn, and the folks who are not listed that are on the team, it’s for reasons, you know, that... I’m sure you understand the startup phase, there’s a lot of hustle and scrappy nature of building a startup that it just makes it... that’s the way it is right now. But when the time is right, you guys know exactly who’s on the team.
“we are just begging for people to be patient with us”
Boyt: We’ve seen there’s a lot of companies out there, a lot of companies that are in the startup phase, a lot of companies that are bringing different things to market and all that, and I think we’ve tried to be very objective and step back and look at the strategies of other companies... And the problem I think a lot of times that happens when the push is for... whatever the motivation in a startup is, whether it’s monetary or whatever, it can change a company’s trajectory. And we’re so committed to being a different kind of company and having something that we can establish and carry many, many years into the future, we don’t want to open up too much. We don’t want [there] to be any deviation from that mission.
So it’s difficult because obviously we understand the game we want to play, and communicate, and we know the importance of media and everyone involved. But we’re so confident in what it is we’re building, we are just begging for people to be patient with us because... I mean, the result is happening. The response has just been incredible from the cars that we’re producing. We couldn’t be more excited about it.
You’ve used a couple different words to describe the stuff that you’ve been working on, so I want to be absolutely clear about this. You say the cars that you’re “producing,” and you’ve talked about the vehicles that you’re “designing.” What is actually being done at Alpha Motor right now? Are you designing vehicle designs that you hope to produce if you feel they’re popular enough? Are you actually trying to start producing something that looks like one of those cars? What is actually happening?
Boyt: All of the vehicles that we have released are in production process. In our production process. Every one of those is within our production process.
And what does that mean, just so I’m clear.
Boyt: Yeah, it just means that they’re all at varying degrees of the production process, but they are all in development. For sure.
That’s an incredible lift. I mean, we have EV startups, even large automotive companies, that are spending billions of dollars to just get the first electric vehicle out the door.
Boyt: Right, right. Yeah. And the timeline obviously is different on all of those. But again, you know, we... our goal really is to try and make sure that our process again is very intentional. We’re putting out, at the phases where we can, every single vehicle that there is out there, like I don’t know if you’ve got a chance to see, but the Wolf is in a different part of the production process where we have the non-drivable prototype that right now you can see at the Petersen [Automotive] Museum. So the timelines vary on on all of these vehicles, but every single one of them is in production process.
“We’re in a very delicate phase”
Considering the financial lift that would be involved in attacking that, even if you have them spaced out over a couple of years, how is the startup funded?
Boyt: Well, again...
Lijewski: We can’t really get into that at the moment. We’re in a very delicate phase when it comes to that aspect of the company which, you know, also informs the slow release of a lot of information. What we can share at this time is that we are working on putting out as many vehicle designs as we can, we’re fleshing out not only the the vehicle lineup, but the accessory lineup, even the concept for our retail locations down the road. We’re really trying to be on the ready for every aspect of our business, so that when it is go time, we’re ready.
Let me ask one more question, and then I’ll follow up on some of that. On paper, the startup is headquartered in Delaware, registered through Delaware. Is that part of the company, Alpha Motor US — is that where it stops or is there a parent company somewhere else?
Lijewski: That’s where it starts — that’s where it stops. We’re based in Irvine, California. We are a private entity at the moment. Our team is very hard at work on many aspects of the company and [laughs] that’s where we’re at at the moment.
Boyt: And again, I know all that information that is public knowledge is fine, and we want people to be able to know that stuff. We’ve even... any of those more detailed questions. We actually just recently posted a FAQ on our website that goes through any of this kind of information that you might be interested in as well. So definitely feel free to check that out on the website.
Got it. I know you don’t want to talk about individuals. You said there are people on LinkedIn who have the company name out there as far as who their employer is, but can you say who some of the executives are who run the company? Who it was that founded the company? Because you said earlier that you guys aren’t trying to do anything that confuses or misleads people, but that kind of information usually comes out with startups that are trying to raise money and exist in the real world.
Boyt: And I guess that’s the thing is, we’re not necessarily putting out there that we’re like trying to raise money or we’re trying to do this. What we’re trying to do is just build our company, and I know everybody wants to know exactly what phase we’re at and when, and that’s the difficult part because media really, really wants to pull all those details out for other people that potentially would want to get involved. But again, we’re not trying to do things the way everyone else does. And I know that seems frustrating, and I can feel it. We talk to a lot of media about this. But again, we really just want to continue doing what we’re doing. I mean, that’s the reason that we are a privately held company. We’re doing our process, and we feel very, very confident that what we’re doing is going to create a different kind of company. And so we’re doing everything we can to reveal... again, if you wanted to look at any of that information about the name of the founder is Edward Lee, that’s public knowledge, that’s posted online, that’s in our FAQ as well.
Lijewski: And our vice chair is Jada Lee, she’s our vice chair and counsel for the company. That’s the leadership team right there. I am the head of marketing and Joshua’s the head of business development. There are more folks on the team, of course, but you know, again, they’re not ready to divulge that info at the moment.
Boyt: But again, we really want to help people get to know us as a company. And that doesn’t necessarily only come by introducing the individuals. We really want to be the kind of company that shows how we operate, the kind of energy and heart that’s put behind our designs, the things that we want to support. I mean, obviously we’re trying to do things like getting connected with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and promoting some different things we can using the visibility of our company. We’re excited about that. We’re excited that we know the attention that we’re getting, the reviews on YouTube, through social media, all that, that we can use that for good. And so that’s really what we’re focused on right now. All the rest of it, it’ll be, as things come out, obviously everyone will be excited in that time that it is, but yeah, we just want to put our attention on the things that we know we can utilize for good right now.
You’re accepting preorders for some of the vehicles though, right?
Lijewski: Not monetarily. We’re taking reservations as a way to get in the queue. In due course, once we develop or further our timeline, we will get into fully refundable cash deposits. But we’re not at that point in our timeline yet.
Do you feel any obligation to those people who have expressed enough interest to sign up to share more information than you already have?
Boyt: I mean, I think people are excited enough about what we have going on to want to reserve those vehicles, they’re on that journey with us and their excitement is right there with us. And us being able to bring more vehicles to the table, we think that will support different people in different seasons of life or different phases. Like we just released the Saga — being able to have a four-door sedan option is really awesome. We’re excited about that. We actually teased another model that’s coming up soon as well. So these are the kind of things we’re trying to create — cars, like you said that people will love, that will fit in within people’s lifestyle and that helps to kind of continue our process on them.
Alpha Motor doesn’t have any drivable prototypes yet
Lijewski: And we certainly are interacting with folks who have shared their interest in our vehicles and will continue to do so. Finding unique and clever ways to interact with these folks and have them interact with our vehicles in a way before they’re actually physically produced. So we’re working on that for sure. And we don’t take that excitement lightly. You know, the love that has been given to us by people who are already in the reservation queue, it puts a lot of wind in our sails, and yeah, it definitely encourages us to keep going and to push through all the heavy lifting that a startup will endure.
One last thing on the different models just so I’m clear. You said there is one at the Petersen Museum that’s not drivable but is built out. What about the other ones? Do you have drivable prototypes of any of the other vehicles?
Lijewski: No, not yet.
Boyt: Not currently, no.
Okay. And how — obviously, like you’ve said, I think it’s pretty obvious that there has been a positive reaction to a lot of the designs — how deep into the functional side of those designs that you’re creating have you gone? Are these CAD modeled exterior and interiors that look really good, but the sort of internals of these theoretical vehicles don’t exist, or are we talking like down to the battery pack, you’ve actually done the work?
Boyt: Yeah, Sean, you’re asking really good questions definitely into our processes. And unfortunately, that’s one of those things that we can’t share specifics around. But again, like anybody that is familiar with what it takes to make visuals like we do, you probably will understand the amount that goes into that. We definitely are investing a lot of care in the cars that we release.
Lijewski: And you know, we will say this, the folks on our team, design, engineering, and beyond, are extremely well-versed in what it takes to actually bring vehicles to the market. So I think your answer is enveloped in that statement.
Okay. You mentioned some of the other things that have been written recently. One thing that I’m obviously curious about, that a lot of people have been curious about, and I know that the company has been very particular in expressing what it sees as the facts of the situation are, this apparent closeness to another company that had sort of come and gone, called Neuron. I see that Alpha has released statements saying that there is no relationship but there are obvious overlaps, as far as addresses registered to these businesses, and things like that. What is going on with Neuron?
Boyt: We’re not associated with that at all. Alpha is a completely different company.
Is it just a strange coincidence that you wound up with the same registered address?
Boyt: Um, I have no idea, like it’s not... all I know is that we are completely separate and not connected in any way to that company.
And that goes for even someone like Edward Lee or other people who are at the top of the company, that they’re separate as well?
Lijewski: If you’re interested in speaking with Edward about anything in his prior work history, we’ll see what we can do to set up an interview with him, but we can’t speak on Edward’s past. It’s really not our place, but we can assure you that Alpha Motor Corporation is its entirely own entity, privately held, and we’re pushing forward with our mission here at Alpha.
Yeah. I mean, if he has availability, I would love to talk to him.
Lijewski: Okay, yeah. Shoot us a couple of dates and times that will work for you and we’ll see what we can get on the books.
“We really don’t feel extremely beholden to justify what we are doing at Alpha at this stage”
As you release more designs, what should people be looking for as far as trying to get a sense of how you’re actually going to succeed as a startup? Like, what kinds of things are you going to start showing people as evidence that you’re going to be able to build these vehicles?
Boyt: I think that people will start to see the natural progression of seeing vehicles. I mean, we will have driving prototypes. We will have cars that will drive on the road. We will produce cars. I think that it’s all going to happen as expected. Again, we’re not trying to over promise and under deliver. What we want to do is just stick to doing what we know, is how it works. Like Jay mentioned, our team is versed in bringing vehicles to market, is versed in doing everything from design, engineering, production, all of those pieces. And so we really just want to make sure that we’re being — again, we’re not giving people something that they’re hanging on, “Oh you said this date and that,” or whatever. We really are trying to just do it.
Lijewski: We really don’t feel extremely beholden to justify what we are doing at Alpha at this stage. Yeah, we’re having very detailed conversations with folks who will provide resource, but as far as those kinds of detailed conversations... we’re not having them with the general public or, frankly, with the media at this time. But we will feel responsible for sharing a lot more of that detail when we get into the phase of accepting cash deposits for vehicles because that will signal that the pathway is clear for production.
Okay. Alright. Well, I appreciate you guys shedding as much light as you’re able to on this.
Boyt: Quick question for you before we get off. What got you interested in Alpha? What got you interested in talking to us?
The lack of information around some of the specifics.
Boyt: Didn’t like any of the designs or anything?
The designs are great, but I’ve been covering this industry for a while now, and not to try and compare your designs to other people’s designs, but we’ve seen a lot of designs. And we’ve seen a lot of companies struggle to come up with the vast resources that are required to, like I said, execute on even one of those designs. And even armed with those resources, are often running into trouble [getting past] the sort of general blockers that stop a lot of companies from ever succeeding in this space. Even a company like Tesla has skirted quite close to death multiple times.
Boyt: Totally. We definitely are excited about what we’re doing, and I hear that, and I know there’s a lot of people that want to see EV take its place in the world, and we’re about that. We are about this mission, understanding that EV is the future. We really believe in the direction of our company and the process that we’re taking. I know that it’s hard and I know your job is one of the hardest ones in trying to give people confidence and comfortability in what is a new market. There’s so much market potential. You know what I mean? The EV market is still so small compared to internal combustion engine, and a lot of that is people being afraid of what stepping into that future looks like. Do we have infrastructure? Do we have all these things? And it’s going to take a lot of people working together to get us to that space.
Lijewski: The folks are either afraid of the lack of infrastructure, or they just haven’t really found an EV design that really resonates with them. And I think that’s a very unique thing that we offer at Alpha, is a different take on the design ethos of EVs. The visceral reaction that people are getting when they’re looking on these vehicle designs, whether they’re posted on our website, our Instagram, or even someone like MotorTrend’s website or Instagram, they’re getting an insane amount of interest. Again, that puts a lot of wind in our sails, and that pushes us to fulfill this mission. We’re definitely on track and we’re up for the challenge. We completely understand the potential pitfalls and difficulties that are out in front of us, and we know that it’s going to be an uphill battle, but we’re very confident that we’ll be able to see it through.
Let me ask you one last question on that design piece of this. Because I think certainly a lot of people would agree that automakers could stand to have some fresh competition on the design side. Some have sort of gone out of their way recently to try to stand out from the crowd. But a lot of what drives modern vehicles toward looking like each other and gives these companies trouble in sort of making vehicles that stand out and have really radical designs is that they’re developing vehicles with stringent federal safety standards in mind, efficiency targets that they have to hit, working around the current physical and sort of chemical restrictions of battery technology, when we’re talking about electric vehicles.
How much of all of that goes into the process of coming up with these vehicle designs that Alpha Motor has put out, or are you just leveraging the ability and the freedom of maybe not having to answer those questions just yet, and sort of being able to flex design muscles because you’re not really fitting inside the box you might eventually have to fit in?
Boyt: All those things are in consideration. We want to make vehicles that we’re actually going to produce. They’re not just cool designs. They’re not just drawings on paper, either. Our goal is to make vehicles that will be vehicles that people can drive. [Also] vehicles we love, like we want to drive them.
Lijewski: I think our designs are unique, but I don’t think that they’re necessarily radical in terms of a lot of the testing that will have to be done. I don’t think that we’re introducing any sort of design that is new to the verifying agencies. I think we’re taking an approach of tapping into what people have always loved about cars, and not trying to give people our take on the future. I think that’s a key differentiator. We take all that into account. And like I said earlier, the folks on our team are extremely well versed in what it takes to not only design cool-looking vehicles, but what it takes to bring those vehicles to the market. You can underline that because I think that’s very important to share.