GreenTech Automotive will launch its MyCar line in Horn Lake July 6.
It will mark the company’s first production run since its arrival in Mississippi. Charles Wang, CEO of Virginia-based GTA, said at an October 2009 ceremony in Tunica that his company would build a massive facility there that would produce gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. Production capacity numbers – 150,000 vehicles annually just in the plant’s first phase — Wang cited then would eventually have exceeded those of the Nissan plant in Canton.
A lot has happened since then.
Notably, the Tunica facility’s size, cost and production capacity have been lowered, though a company spokesperson wouldn’t confirm last week exactly where those metrics currently stand.
And, in May 2010, GTA took the first step on the journey to next month’s launch of the MyCar. That’s when GTA acquired Hong Kong-based EuAuto, which specialized in the design and build of neighborhood electric vehicles.
In Horn Lake, GTA will build the MyCar in the old Dover Elevator building, company spokesperson Tracy Sefl said. She would not provide details of production capacity or employment numbers for the facility.
The two-seater MyCar is about the size of a golf cart, and runs entirely on electric power. It can be charged, GTA says, on a regular, 110-volt electrical outlet. The cost of operating the cars, according to GTA figures, is about 2 cents per mile.
Neighborhood electric vehicles like the MyCar are best for low-speed urban driving, GTA’s website says, making them ideal for zooming around places like gated enclaves, beach communities and university campuses. They are popular in Europe. They aren’t yet street legal in the U.S. That’s one of the main reasons why many of the first MyCars produced in Horn Lake will be sold overseas.
In September 2011, GTA came to an agreement with Greenabout in which the Danish company would purchase what GTA called in a press release a “sizeable percentage” of MyCar production through 2014.
GreenTech eventually plans facilities in Tennessee and Virginia to go with those in Mississippi.
The company’s originally planned site in Tunica is still a go, said Lyn Arnold, president and CEO of the Tunica County Chamber of Commerce.
“They’re working out there every single day,” Arnold said. “They’re getting close to the end. Their goal would be to start production by the end of the third quarter of 2013.”
Exactly what they’ll make in Tunica is still murky. Original plans, unveiled at the October 2009 event, included a midsize sedan and a sports car. Those options are still on the table, but nothing is final, GTA says, and wouldn’t be revealed if it was because of proprietary concerns.
Original employment numbers for the Tunica plant reached 1,500 in its first phase, but it was unclear where that figure stood last week. GreenTech’s website says when all of its facilities in its three-state target area are at full production, the company will create more than 4,000 new jobs.
It’s also unclear if the company is still using the EB-5 Visa program to finance all or part of the costs of the Tunica plant. The New Orleans-based regional center GreenTech first used got out of the EB-5 business, and company officials have not answered questions about a potential new partner since.
Whether GreenTech is still using the EB-5 program could be important in determining the Tunica plant’s future. The EB-5 program is scheduled to sunset in September, unless it’s reapproved by Congress.
Figures from the Department of State show that uncertainty may be driving up the number of applicants, who can earn an EB-5 Visa for investing in economic development projects in poor areas of the U.S.
Between Oct. 1 of last year and mid-January of this year, the State Department issued 2,364 EB-5 green cards. If that rate holds, more than 9,000 total visas could be issued for the current federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The EB-5 statute caps the number of visas issued in one fiscal year at 10,000.