AN: McAuliffe's Chinese EV Factory "Dead On Arrival"

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Remember Bertels’ stranger-than-fiction write-up of former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe’s Mongolian EV /Visa plant? Charles Child at Automotive News [sub] has looked at McAuliffe’s scheme and comes away less than entirely impressed, noting that

even casual scrutiny of his vision reveals overwhelming obstacles. Let’s be plain: His plan is dead on arrival.

You won’t find a zinger like that in Bertel’s piece, but only because he keeps his head down detailing the entire bizarre history of McAuliffe’s venture, its roots as the “Hybrid Kinetic Motors” visa scheme, its ties to a couple of notorious former Brilliance boys and its money-first, product-later approach. Child’s takedown isn’t as well researched (nor does it contain anecdotes about former a Ambassador driving a lawnmower into a swimming pool), but the few remaining folks out there who think the former Democrat fundraiser might be on to something big should probably read on. After all, McAuliffe has put so much hype out there, this story is something of a target-rich environment for truth-tellers.

Child quickly identifies McAuliffe’s major contribution to the project: hype.

What keeps the vision alive is McAuliffe’s audacity. With confidence and verve, he spells out his job-creating optimism on friendly national cable shows such as “The Daily Rundown” and “The Ed Show,” also on MSNBC… Bold auto visions are fine. But they require staggering amounts of money and manpower. And there’s no tangible indication that McAuliffe has either.

But not all the hype has been good: conservatives dislike McAuliffe for obvious reasons, but even parts of the left wing seems to be shunning the Clintonite hustler. And speaking of manpower, do you want to guess how many employees GreenTech has?

About 50 employees, says Alan Himelfarb, executive vice president for strategic planning. Not even 50 engineers. Fifty total employees.

Consider that GM has added around 2,000 engineers in recent years, just for its hybrid and electric development efforts, and you get a sense of how outgunned GreenTech is. Still, a startup could theoretically catch the OEMs napping… but that’s where the “staggering amounts of money” come in. And, reports Child,

The Chinese partner is Shengyang Zhong-Rui Investment Co., which GreenTech says has investments in banking, commercial real estate and Chinese airlines. But no investments in automotive operations are listed in the GreenTech press release.

And without investment, McAuliffe’s staged “cornerstone laying” of the plant in Ordos, Inner Mongolia was just that: the laying of one stone, no more, no less. And absent the billions needed to make this kind of startup take off, plans to sell EPA and DOT-certified cars in the 2013-2014 timeframe appear to be… on hold.

the Web site of the Ordos provincial government in China says GreenTech pledged to start production of hybrids and electrics at its plant in 2013.

But last week the company scaled back those estimates.

“Our expanding product portfolio, including hybrid and electric full-speed vehicle will come in due time and we have not yet set a timetable for the next product introduction” after this year’s neighborhood electric vehicle, the company said in a statement. “We fully understand the challenges in time, money, and technical expertise to produce a quality hybrid or electric vehicle.”

In other words, it could easily be another five years before GreenTech, which hopes to have 100 employees by year’s end, even starts production of hybrid or electric cars. At least cars that are capable of driving on freeways. In the meantime, the venture is leaping into the mainstay of EV hucksterism: neighborhood electric vehicles. Like Zap, Miles and many more before them, GreenTech’s “world-changing” automobiles will be limited to 30 MPH and banned from streets with a speed limit above 45 MPH. According to a GreenTech presser, this NEV (called the “MyCar”) will be built in Mississippi and,

We will make the first 100,000 U.S.-built MyCars available to consumers for $10,000 apiece.

But even at those low prices, GreenTech will be waiting to sell its first 100k cars. Child cites market research from International Market Solutions showing that the US market for NEVs last year was a little over 26k units (for comparison, the Toyota Camry sold 30k units in August alone). GreenTech’s response?

neighborhood electrics “are a small market for sure, at least right now. We have a few ideas on how to create some awareness and build that market. Our goal of 100,000 units is a cumulative sales figure over time. We look forward to achieving that.”

I’ve only been blogging about the car industry for about three and a half years, but I’ve seen this movie way too many times before. If you’ve missed out on the ZAP saga, to cite the most infamous example of the “NEV today, domination tomorrow” scam, read this, this, this and this for a primer on how this game works. It’s not pretty, and I hoped it was left behind in 2008, when it still fooled a few people. Today there’s no excuse for anyone to be taken in by such an unimaginative, played-out scam.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

More by Edward Niedermeyer

Join the conversation
2 of 4 comments
  • Contrarian Contrarian on Sep 06, 2011

    Something that badly thought out and executed must have been funded with [s]Obama's[/s] our completely failed "green jobs" money.

  • Ethan Gaines Ethan Gaines on Sep 06, 2011

    Something just says "shell company set up for complex money laundering scheme" about this. But I'm sure I'm wrong.

  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)