By on December 9, 2016

Normal, Illinois (Ross Griff/Flickr)

An abandoned assembly plant in Normal, Illinois, could once again become a beehive of car-building activity.

Opened in 1988 as a collaborative effort between Chrysler and Mitsubishi, the plant served as headquarters for a great 1980s corporate relic — Diamond-Star Motors. In its heyday, the facility dutifully cranked out Plymouth Lasers, Mitsubishi Eclipses, and Eagle Talons, before Chrysler lost interest in the 50-50 deal.

Turned over to Mitsubishi in 1995, the plant soldiered on after Diamond-Star Motors bit the dust. What followed was a parade of forgettable nameplates — Mitsubishi Mirage, Eagle Summit, even the Dodge Stratus Coupe — before a final shutdown earlier this year eliminated the last of 1,250 jobs and production of the Outlander Sport.

Now, the 2.4 million square foot plant could soon be home to a shadowy new tenant.

According to Reuters, Detroit-based Rivian Automotive has agreed to purchase the plant and reopen it within five years. Going by Rivian’s website, the only thing we know for sure about the automotive venture is that it’s “coming soon.”

The company, which hasn’t confirmed the purchase, bills itself as an automotive technology venture interested in sustainable mobility. At the helm is CEO RJ Scaringe, who formed the company in 2009.

Still, Normal mayor Chris Koos says it’s a done deal. He told Reuters that Rivian plans to employ a workforce of 500 when the plant reopens in 2021, with that number eventually growing to 1,000 employees. State and local economic development agencies claim Rivian will invest $175 million into the operation by 2024.

In a release issued yesterday, Sean McCarthy, Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce, said, “The auto industry is the fourth largest employer in the state, and this investment gives Illinois a significant presence in the emerging electric vehicle market.”

Though it sounds like a garden-variety mobility technology startup, Rivian seems to want to produce actual vehicles, though it hasn’t mentioned any potential partners or suppliers. What those (clearly electric) vehicles might look like is anyone’s guess. Assuming this gets off the ground, the rolling stock would likely form part of a ride-sharing service.

Electric vehicle and mobility startups are common, but there’s industry brains behind Rivian’s effort. Among them: Lawrence Achram, a former Chrysler vice president, and Larry Erickson, a former designer at General Motors and Ford.

Naturally, the town of Normal has high hopes for the return of factory jobs. However, as we’ve seen with ventures like Faraday Future, the distance between plant announcements and a production vehicle is a vast. RJ Scaringe appeared in the news media back in 2011, promising a Florida-built mid-engined sports car (with an affordable price tag) by 2013.

[Image: Ross Griff/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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26 Comments on “Former Home of Diamond-Star Motors Now Home to a Mystery...”

  • avatar

    Interesting piece, look forward to any developments (or scandals).

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    “In its heyday, the facility dutifully cranked out Plymouth Lasers, Mitsubishi Eclipses, and Eagle Talons,”

    “In its heyday, the facility lightly assembled piles of crap for future Nissan Altima customers.”


  • avatar

    So were these folks Clinton donors betting on some gravy from DC for Hillary’s native state? Cause if so, this probably does not have great prospects in the near term.

    • 0 avatar

      Terry Mcaullif, Governor of Virginia and friend of the Clintons was involved in a sham electric automobile venture in Mississippi. Called GreenTech Motors it built a factory to build electric cars. It is also somehow tied to Chinese investors I believe. The company received state and federal government incentives. So far it has built few if any cars. I ride by the plant and see a few cars in various states of completion parked outside. They are morel like closed bodied golf carts than roadworthy vehicles.

      • 0 avatar

        Funny how that was not only tolerated, but how it apparently is still going on.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Haley Barbour who resembles Boss Hogg’s younger brother, former RNC chair and Mississippi governor was also involved.

        The market for these is fairly limited except for in 55 and older communities and government agencies or factory floors as replacements for the old Cushman Scooter pickups.

        NYPD has been recently replacing Cushman’s with Smart Cars. The Smart is actually less costly. A elevator repair shop near me uses a Smart as a service vehicle.

        • 0 avatar

          Here’s a bid award for 23 Westward Industries GO-4 trikes, the current versions of Cushman type scooters. The bid was awarded at $46,272 a scooter. They have a service life of six years and every current similar vehicle in the fleet had exceeded its purchase price in maintenance and repair costs. Keeping them going any longer would entail replacing their CNG fuel tanks at $4,500 a scooter. Isn’t sustainability grand when someone else pays for it?

  • avatar

    If one considers the recent appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, this start up should be looking at coal as an alternative fuel.

  • avatar

    Take that back wrong Scottt Pruitt, although the Senator looks like an older version of that Racing car driver

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Rivian will invest $175 million into the operation by 2024”

    That’s 7 years, or roughly $25 million/year. That’s not enough to do ANYTHING remotely productive. They might have a couple dozen people rattling around in a corner office of that plant.

    What a joke.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Vague plans to do something or other in “five years” + economic development money = graft.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s how all things are done in the later stages of the bankster era. Much simpler to manufacture hype and promises in exchange for fresh print; than actual working product in exchange for anything solid.

  • avatar

    I owned a ’93 Laser and currently drive a 2003 Chrysler Sebring coupe made by Mitsu. I can’t find a reason to get rid of my Sebring coupe. 3.0 has plenty of pep, 30mpg, and I hate to give up my 5 sp manual. …and it’s a pretty car.

  • avatar

    $175 million to renovate a 2.4 million sqft plant that’s been shut down for years and no doubt has been stripped of assembly line equipment? How much did FCA have to invest to UPDATE its existing minivan plant in Windsor? If you know the answer, you also know why the Agnelli family hired Sergio to extricate its wealth from the auto industry.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Lo, what chitheadery is this?

  • avatar

    As a car nut, I still vividly remember when the all-new Laser, Eclipse and Talon were THE hot cars of the day. Yeah, I really wanted one. I recall that a friend of a friend got one in the first year. Oh, and in the early ’90s, got a ride in a co-workers Talon.

  • avatar

    A ’91 Laser RS was my first new car and it was a great little car. The only thing I didn’t like about it were those stupid automatic seat belts …

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