Startup automotive manufacturer, GreenTech Automotive, today launched its first product, the MyCar, a small two-seater electric car. The car brings with it a complex story of global automotive manufacturing, that is claimed will create thousands of American jobs, but along the way the company is building a gigantic factory in China. The American side of the company bought a Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer, moving the whole company to America, with a business plan constructed by senior Democratic Party political leaders, full of political talking points, that sounds like a political debate rather than normal business-as-usual in the age of globalism.
GreenTech Automotive is a politically connected company, founded by former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, and counts President Bill Clinton in some kind of advisory role. Today's ceremony to launch the MyCar was attended not just by Bill Clinton, and of course Terry McAuliffe, Chairman of Green Tech Automotive, and also former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour who is also former Chair of the Republican National Committee. Whatever the value of the products the company looks to manufacture, it is well-enough connected to tap on high stakes political clout. McAuliffe founded the company in 2006, and since his failed gubernatorial campaign in Virginia turned his full attention to GreenTech Automotive. The company bought Hong Kong-based EuAuto in 2010, moving operations and manufacturing to the United States. In part the strategy is to "have a positive impact on a local economy in need of revitalization." The company is leasing a small factory in Horn Lake, MS, where they are making a small manufacturing run of the electric MyCar NEV. At the same time they are building a 300,000-square-foot facility in Tunica, Miss. and an even larger 1.5 million square foot factory in China. Supposedly the company's plans will it will create 426 direct jobs by 2014, and would create more than 7,400 direct, indirect and induced jobs by 2014.
“Thanks are due to Governor Barbour for being so receptive to our strategy to create manufacturing jobs in the United States,” said McAuliffe. “This unlikely partnership illustrates the kind of jobs-before-politics attitude that will get America back on track by restoring manufacturing to its rightful place at the core of our economy. We’re looking forward to continuing that relationship with Governor Bryant’s new administration.” McAuliffe previously served as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee; Barbour served as chairman of the Republican National Committee.
A tag-line on the corporate website reads "No green technology is truly green until it is Affordably Green." In light of luxury electric cars like the Tesla Model S, we can certainly appreciate that attitude. However the pragmatist recognizes that while the MyCar has an affordable expected base price of $15,500, it is also a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV), a class of electric vehicle which straight-up does injustice to the whole concept of electric vehicles, and only serves to reinforce negative stereotypes. In the current state of electric vehicle manufacturing and sales, it's pragmatic reality that the cost of the battery pack required to support a 300 mile driving range, at highway speed, means an outrageous vehicle base price that forces the manufacturer into the luxury market.
The MyCar is an all electric vehicle, hence has zero tailpipe emissions, and the model built for sales in the European Union will offer a 45 miles/hr top speed. Due to regulations in America, the top speed will be limited to 25 miles/hr putting the MyCar into the NEV class. NEV's have a large number of limitations not just in a measly 25 miles/hr top speed, but also where they can drive. Unlike many NEV's, the MyCar looks like a regular car, specifically drawing on the Smart ForTwo, the Scion iQ, and the Fiat 500 for design cues. This makes it a tiny two-seater car that will fit very well in a crowded urban setting where parking might be tight.
The company claims driving range will be 115 miles, at 25 miles/hr, and the car can be recharged from either regular 120 volt or 220 volt electrical outlets, and presumably it has a J1772 port on board. Charging time is said to range between 3 and 12 hours depending on what sort of power outlet is used to recharge the car.
The company describes the MyCar as "an ideal solution for corporations, government entities, rental car fleets, and corporate and college campuses". In 2013 the company expects to launch a "micro pick-up and delivery vehicle", and in 2014 a larger MyCar EV. The company promises to manufacture, in the future, fully NHTSA- and EPA-certified, full-speed, all-road vehicles. The NEV is said to be just a starting point. In the meantime they have inked a deal with Dominos Pizza to deploy the MyCar's as delivery vehicles near Ole Miss University. Domino's has experimented with small electric vehicles for Pizza delivery in the past.
How will having manufacturing in China create jobs in America? Is this just a bit of political flimflam? McAuliffe did a number of video's over the last couple years, linked off the corporate website, that explain the strategy.
First, China is the largest automotive market in the world at the market, with Chinese buying more cars than any other country ever. Because of the import tarrifs imposed by the Chinese government on any imports into China, it is beneficial for any company looking to sell a product in China, to set up manufacturing in China. That explains the massive factory in China.
Second, the MyCar's assembled in China will use drive train components manufactured in America. The corporate website does not list the sources of those components, but there are several manufacturers of battery pack, battery management, electric motors, electric vehicle controllers, and the like in America. At the same time there are many times more manufacturers of those components in China.
Third, the company's facility in Tunica, Miss will be manufacturing the MyCar's for sale in the U.S.
What we have is a start-up company led by people with top level political connections in the U.S. They're pushing a line of building jobs in America, while at the same time building jobs in China. The choice to start with manufacturing an NEV is not new to this company, several other companies got started with NEV manufacturing while promising future highway-capable electric cars. Wheego and ZENN are two companies that come to mind. Where GreenTech Automotive differs is the depth of funding the company appears to have, as well as the top-level political connections, and how the company is exploiting those two things to generate attention.