By on June 27, 2014
Detroit Electric Vice President Doug Moore. Note the used whiteboard in the conference room behind him.

Detroit Electric Vice President Doug Moore in the company’s Fisher Bldg headquarters in Detroit. Note the used whiteboard in the conference room behind him.

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

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19 Comments on “Detroit Electric Gets To Work In Detroit...”


  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Not getting any Preston Tucker vibes from this guy, so that’s a good thing.

    The retro-branding won’t hurt this company, either.

    Comes down to price. Are we talking Tesla Level price point for the electric Lotus contraption?

    Their target market is WHOM?

    “Citizens of the ruins of Detroit! Presenting a car you will never be able to afford…. the SP:01!!”

    Make a four door, midsize electric car that’s not skyrocketing past 50 large and you might sell some cars to folks. Or do what everyone else is doing right now: the crossover.

    By the way, I’ll be damned if the guy in the picture isn’t packing a 38 snub nose.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    If you do some digging, I suspect that you won’t find enough capital in its coffers for the company to produce much beyond press releases. Car companies need cash, and they don’t have nearly enough of it.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t ask Moore about financing but he did say that they have an assured supply of gliders from Lotus. I feel the same way about Detroit Electric as I do about Elio Motors, if we don’t see actual cars being assembled by real company employees by the beginning of 2015, it isn’t going to happen. The time frame that Moore gave me is very short – they’ll have demonstrators built in September, which is only a few weeks away. Same thing with Elio. They say that they’ll start hiring for Elio’s Shreveport factory in Q4 of 2014. Sometime between now and then they’ll have to show the final prototype, with their own engine that IVL is designing for them, not a Suzuki motor out of a Geo Metro. If the companies miss what are now pretty firm deadlines, I’d be inclined to say vaporware, but until those deadlines pass without any cars being produced I’m keeping an open mind.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Detroit Electric has been talking up its relationship with Lotus for years, but nothing has come of it.

        Detroit Electric has set various milestone dates coupled with aggressive sales targets and launch dates, and none of them have come close to being met.

        I don’t think that it’s vaporware per se, in that I don’t get the sense that they’re trying to bamboozle investors out of their money. Rather, these guys have a dream that they’d like to chase but virtually nothing tangible that they can use to back it up and make it work.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Who’s the president? This VP is one burger away from the ICU.

    OK, punched up the font till I could deal with Ronnie’s penchant for channeling Zappa’s “The Black Page”; Graunstadt and Lam can certainly generate the vapor.

    I wish something could actually come of this but it smells of Solyndra.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I think the polite term for this is a “concept.”

  • avatar
    iNeon

    This is after they’d moved-in and made themselves at home? I understand they’re a start-up and all, but ain’t spit legit until you’ve got a real sign. Are the business cards generic VP cards, with a blank spot for filling-in a name?

    I like it! 10 bored rich guys all borrowed against their 401k accounts, made a logo and business plan. It’s very adventurous! For about a month in 2006 I’d wondered if I could have bought the neon and Tritec engine tooling from Chrysler and made a go of this type of thing.

    Why aren’t there more ICE start-ups? The market needs something new and American. That isn’t a Tesla. Or this.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      I have no opinion on the viability of this company, one way or another. But, having worked with tech startups for a number of years, I have respect for a company that gives at least the appearance of skimping on meaningless things like signs, office furnishings and business cards, to (apparently) focus their money on the product.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    There seems to be a rash of fake companies seeking investment to build cars that will never exist. Why do you guys even pretend these companies are real? Aren’t they just Ponzi scheme / scams to steal money, like ELIO MOTORS????

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Because these guys went to the trouble of securing rights to a defunct, but actual historical car company and set up offices in a classy building in Detroit, where real estate is cheap and factory space can be had for peanuts for a limited production operation, and the tech is established, and they’re following the Tesla plan with an initial sports car and promising a spiffy sedan later, and Tesla worked didn’t it? And, and…

  • avatar
    Instant_Karma

    When I saw the headline at first I thought this was an article about one of Harbor Freight’s house brands.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Fingers crossed they can make a go of things .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    JD23

    I’d peg the probability of this company selling a single car to the public at well below 50%.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I look forward to not bidding on their 2015 roadster (non-functioning) concept/fiberglass mold on Ebay in 2030. It’ll be in a barn in south-central Tennessee. Some mice damage.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    “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.”

    Drug ads are about 50% description of “rare but potentially serious” side effects. I think we need something similar here; every D-E ad should include a list of the standards waived.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    TTAC could take this opportunity to return to its roots. Let’s get some Death Watches going:

    - Detroit Electric
    - VIA Motors
    - Elio

    Any other nominees? History and the yawns that met Musk’s announcement that he’d share out his IP tell us what we need to know; when the various EV/partial EV segments look profitable, the majors will reach out and crush these guys.


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