When Detroit Electric launched their brand last spring at a gala affair in Detroit’s magnificent Fisher Building they, and the building’s landlord, said that the revived electric car brand would be making its headquarters in a suite on the 18th floor of the historic Detroit skyscraper. They also laid out their plans for assembling cars in southeastern Michigan.
When the company announced in November that they were delaying their plans to start electrifying Lotus supplied gliders at a Detroit area production facility, while going ahead with plans to build cars for the European market somewhere in Europe, Detroit Electric North American president Don Graunstadt insisted that the company was still dedicated to having operations in the Detroit area. To see what kind of progress they were having with their headquarters I stopped in at the Fisher Building back then and discovered that their Fisher Building suite was empty, with apparently no sign of any work having been done to set up a business office. We published photos of the empty offices here at TTAC, which got some attention.
Detroit Electric has now announced that they’ll be assembling cars for the European market at a facility in Leamington Spa in the United Kingdom, with sales and marketing for Europe, Africa and the Middle East handled out of the Netherlands. However, company CEO Albert Lam’s statement reiterated their commitment to the Detroit area, saying, “We’re growing our team at the company’s headquarters in Detroit and we are committed to bringing investment and jobs to the Detroit economic area in the very near future.”
Since he mentioned the Detroit headquarters I returned to the Fisher Building today and I’m happy to report that there is now visible activity at Detroit Electric’s Detroit headquarters, with most of their North American staff located there. I also found out, according to company VP for administration Doug Moore, that my November photographs may have given the wrong impression.
Moore said that it was true that at the time I photographed their suite in November they had made no progress on moving into their permanent offices, but that it was due to the landlord’s delays in getting the suite ready and that they actually had staff working then in temporary offices on the Fisher Bldg’s 12th floor. The company vice president came out to speak with me today after their personnel director found me setting up my cameras in their 18th floor lobby. While it wasn’t exactly a beehive of activity – there wasn’t even a receptionist, this time the office did look occupied and behind the entry doors I could see a conference room whose whiteboard looked recently used, covered with automotive jargon.
Moore gave me an update on the company’s current plans. Their plans to sell their SP:01 sports car in the U.S. were contingent on getting waivers, as a small scale manufacturer, on some Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. With those waivers seemingly stalled, they decided to go ahead with European assembly, since a facility on the continent was always part of their long term plans and starting assembly there made more sense than building the cars in the U.S. and incurring the additional customs and transportation costs of shipping them overseas.
Moore said that the company’s second generation sports car, to be based on the Lotus Evora so it will be a larger, 2+2 grand tourer, will be assembled in the U.S., assuming they can get government approval. Moore reiterated that the company’s proposed more mass market four passenger car will be designed and engineered in the United States with final assembly being most likely done somewhere in or near Detroit.
He said, regarding that four passenger Detroit Electric, that the company is pursuing two possible strategies. They are going forward with a blank sheet design at the same time that they are negotiating with a couple of large automakers who might provide gliders for them to electrify.
Concerning their existing Detroit operations, Moore said that they currently have eight employees working in the Fisher Building and that will increase to about a dozen people soon, as he already has been interviewing engineers to augment their design team. By the end of the year Moore expects there to be about 20 Detroit Electric employees to be active in their headquarters. When I asked which corporate personnel are working out of the Fisher Bldg suite, he rattled off the positions for most of their current North American staff, including himself and Graunstadt.
As for when we’ll see actual Detroit Electric cars, Moore said that styling on the SP:01 is currently being finalized, with changes to the front and rear looks of the car from the concept shown in Detroit last year. Job One for assembling the SP:01 in the UK will take place in early September of this year, with ride & drive demonstrations for potential customers and retail sales soon after. I didn’t ask about distribution and dealer networks and Moore didn’t offer any information on those topics. As for the four passenger Detroit Electric, Moore said that they were aiming to launch it in the first quarter of 2016.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS