I just wanted to say I agreed completely with what you said about auto technology deals. I have seen a bunch of them and turned them all down for the reasons you mentioned - it is just intrinisically not a good space for VC investors. If anything I think you were overly diplomatic! Takes forever to get to market, very capital intensive, low margin business, and then even if you get to market, selling into auto industry OEMs simply sucks, no two ways around it. And particularly anything related to power plant/drive train. The two other negatives you didn't mention are constant pricing pressure and onerous vendor requirements - selling to the Big 3 (and their ilk) is brutal - constantly playing you off your competitors, demanding your cost data and then pricing you down to the bone, terrible payment terms, etc etc... Personally I won't touch anything designed to sell to Big Auto OEMs with a 10 foot pole.
The only comment I would make is that things can look a little different for a) aftermarket; and b) trucks and buses. Trucks and buses tend to have shorter commercialization cycles, more retrofit activity than passenger vehicles, and recently more stringent regulatory requirements, so there might be some opportunities there. For instance we have seen a number of emission control technologies aimed at complying with the next gen European diesel regs, which are strict and coming fast. Still lots of intrinsic problems in these deals, but there is a sense of urgency from the OEMs, which helps a little bit. Though not enough in my opinion!
Good follow-on comments worth sharing, thanks much... It would be good to share a response from someone in the investment community with a different perspective as well, please feel free to drop me a line...
Also, missed mentioning ReVolt's EUR 10mm insider Series B. The Norwegian developer of zinc-air batteries last raised an EUR 7mm Series A in 2005, and plans on raising an EUR 30mm round next year, according to VWire.