New Car Company: Questions Outnumber Facts In 'Detroit Electric' Announcement

Detroit has a new car company, apparently.

It's too early to place an order or to be sure news release hype will turn into reality, but the vision is intriguing enough for a state official's praise.

Detroit Electric, organized in the United Kingdom, leased a Midtown office and plans to start making two-seat sports cars (above) this August somewhere in Michigan, its Tuesday announcement says. An unnamed "global carmaker" is a partner.

Corporate headquarters is on the 18th floor of the iconic Fisher Building . . . with Don Graunstadt, CEO, North America Operations at Detroit Electric, signing a long-term lease.

A site has also been identified to assemble the first ever pure electric sports car in Michigan, with production to start in August. The dedicated production facility will have an annual capacity of 2,500 sports cars. Detroit Electric aims to create over 180 sales and manufacturing-related jobs over the next 12 months. . . .

This new sports car will be launched early next month in Detroit, ahead of a global public reveal at the Shanghai Motor Show on April 20. The show will also provide the platform for Detroit Electric to share an exciting announcement about a major partnership with a global carmaker. 

The chairman and chief executive is Albert Lam, former group CEO of the Lotus Engineering Group and executive director of Lotus Cars of England. 

The venture gets some kind of state assistance, Graunstadt indicates without details :

 "Our investors and management team are thankful to the State of Michigan for the help provided. . . . We are proud to become the fourth car manufacturer born out of Detroit, and the first to manufacture a pure electric sports car from Michigan."

Three years ago, Nathan Bomey reported at that "the firm is seeking tax incentives from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. . . . to establish a technical center to serve as the engineering headquarters for its global electric vehicle operation." That february 2010 article spoke of "plans to hire more than 500 engineers."  

The new release has turbocharged language ("relentless research and engineering development . . . bold styling, outstanding performance, exhilarating handling characteristics and impressive range"), but no specifics on mileage, cost or range between battery charges. 

Michigan Economic Development Corporation bigwigs saw and heard enough to become believers. Michael Finney, president and CEO of the state agency, is quoted in the handout: 

"Detroit Electric's decision to establish its new headquarters in Detroit is great news, because it builds on Michigan's automotive heritage and places the company in the world's automotive epicenter with a business climate that will enable its success. We look forward to Detroit Electric's continued growth in the state as it creates innovative vehicles and new job opportunities for Michigan workers."

Finney and the firm, which lists two British publicists as the only contacts, don't say anything about state investment or incentives. Among other topics not yet addressed:

  • Where's the factory?
  • When and how can applicants seek the "180 sales and manufacturing-related jobs"?
  • What "major partnership" stake will a larger carmaker have?
  • Will production be at a plant it owns?  

Tuesday's release from a PR agency in Kent, U.K., notes that Detroit Electric was the name of an early 20th century carmaker whose customers included "John D. Rockerfeller Jr." -- an industrialist whose last name gains an "r" it doesn't have. 

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