Here are some facts. Mattel promoted a new toy Barbie car on Wednesday by showing off a full-size mockup at the 2021 LA Auto Show. The mockup was, according to Roadshow, based on an all-electric Fiat 500e. Not long after, Mattel’s stock pared back early-morning losses and finished the day’s trading slightly in the green.
Now, are those things related? Probably not. But weirder things have happened, especially lately. Hertz announced a deal with Tesla and hired Tom Brady to make commercials, and then Elon Musk said the deal wasn’t done. Rivian passed every automaker in market cap except for Toyota and Tesla despite only shipping a few electric pickup trucks. Startups like Faraday Future, Canoo, and Lordstown Motors have collectively raised billions of dollars even though they won’t sell cars until next year at best.
The funny thing is we’re not really so far off from a world where Mattel could try to “make” and sell a (limited run) real-life Barbie EV. Traditional suppliers like Magna and newcomers like Foxconn are developing electric vehicle platforms that are meant to be easily adaptable to different cabins, or “top hats,” so some of the hardest work is already done. In fact, Fisker Inc., which showed off its electric SUV a few hours before the Barbie car debuted, is already doing this. It has taken an extremely “asset-light” approach by outsourcing its manufacturing to Magna (and will also do the same with Foxconn) and is instead far more focused on design and in-car experience.
If we’ve learned anything from the last two years of weird money news, it’s that even if the technical and logistical barriers to an otherwise hard idea are now lower, there are still far easier ways to do some financial shenanigans if that’s truly the goal. In fact, it seems so easy at times that companies regularly now find themselves tripping over a new, higher stock price — kind of like what probably happened with Mattel on Wednesday.
Never mind all that, though, because now I’m going to spend the rest of the day thinking about what it would look like if Mattel spun out its new Barbie EV division and merged it with a SPAC.