Deja Vu All Over Again, Silicon Valley Edition

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams

The Monroe (Louisiana) News Star proclaims, “A deal has been signed that will bring about 1,400 jobs” to an abandoned plant in Ouachita Parish. Whatta deal! But wait—just what company is the area’s economic salvation? It’s a “startup company [which] will assemble new autos in the plant.” The official announcement isn’t until tomorrow, but the deal “known as Project Liberty, involves famed Silicon Valley venture capitalists Ray Lane and John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.” The AP cites Monroe City Council member Arthur Gilmore as saying the plant will build “fuel-efficient vehicles.” Nothing more was given about the company except to say it’s “relatively young” and “has a very unique business model and product.” OK . . . here’s where we have to make the obligatory comparison to Tucker and DeLorean. Oh yeah, and let’s toss in a reference to New Mexico and Tesla’s WhiteStar project. More to come following Gov. Bobby Jindal’s announcement about the deal tomorrow.

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  • Jonathan H. Jonathan H. on Jun 16, 2009

    The scam here in Kentucky was the Zap three-wheeled electric vehicle. It fell through when the financing couldn't be secured for the plant that was supposed to create 3000 manufacturing jobs. The state had piles of tax incentives waiting for them if the showed up. Their angle was that since it was three-wheeled it fell under motorcycle regulations and didn't have to meet the same crash certifications. As long as there is government money to be had these stories will be a common occurrence.

  • Dabossinne Dabossinne on Jun 16, 2009

    This may not be so far-fetched as it sounds. Tesla's (i.e., Elon Musk's) errant rantings and missteps aside, when you have serious big-time Sil Valley VCs like Doerr evidently jumping into the car biz perhaps there is something afoot. These guys don't invest their (clients') hard-earned (and recently dwindling) cash on a whim, wing and a prayer. While this particular instance could indeed be a pig-in-a-poke, we don't know this for sure. But more to the point, it seems to me that, with the demise of the Detroit dinosaurs opportunity knocks, and some intrepid investors and entreprenuers believe there is a whole lotta hole to be filled in the domestic auto biz. And that hole is TRULY INNOVATIVE automobiles. Think about it....When is the last time the ultra-play-it-safe Detroit three did anything truly innovative, especially something that stuck. The EV1, perhaps? Well, we all know what happened to that aborted effort. I mean, really, the cars we're driving around in today, in 2009, are not fundamentally different from those that dropped most of us off at Warren G. Harding elementary. To whit: a steel unibody or body-on-frame conveyance riding on pneumatic rubber tires, motivated by a fossil fuel burning hunk-a metal piston engine. Okay, back in the day it was cast iron like the skillet on which yo mamma cooked your eggs before piling you into the family truckster to drop you off at WGH elementary; now it's probably aluminum like the fancy imported cookery your wife uses to serve up cocq au vin upon your arrival from work in your still- mostly all steel commuter mobile. Point is, what we drive now ain't a whole lot different from what your folks drove decades past. And the huge opening and opportunity here is materials, design and manufacturing technology that "breaks the mold" set my Detroit since time immemorial. Mass-producible carbon fiber, light but powerful and fuel-miserly engines, fast-recharge batteries, light, but very strong and crash-worthy everything. A true reinvention of the car as we know it. Lightness is the key. And this, I'm guessing, is where the creative types with money to must see opportunity. With modern cloud computing and CAD design and engineering software technology, it's a whole lot less expensive (theorectically) to conceive, design and engineer a new car and its associated manufacturing complex today than it was when you and I were in grade school. Ergo, launching a new car company from scratch and building it into a profitable business may actually be doable, given enough financial backing and the right management, design, engineering and marketing talent. That and locating the enterprise in a low-cost-of labor, right-to-work state. The opportunity is to conceive and build a fundamentally different form of automobile that "changes everything", partially (or largely) aided by Uncle Sugar's multi-year stimulus largess in the form of R&D grants. Or am I just smoking something halucinogenic?

  • Dzwax Dzwax on Jun 16, 2009

    well said

  • Durishin Durishin on Jun 16, 2009

    George: "Jane, honey, I'm home!" Jane: "Oh! George! Don't forget to take Astro out for a walk."