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by Matt Brogan

Start-up electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Aurica Motors, is floating a plan to keep the doors of California’s New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant open.

NUMMI, a US-based joint venture between Toyota and General Motors, has struggled to find a viable suitor for its Californian plant since the Global Financial Crisis saw the number of vehicles produced there severely reduced and is scheduled to shut its doors on March 31. GM pulled out of the venture last year as part of its reorganisation under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and Toyota said it would be forced to follow suit because the plant isn’t financially viable without GM as a partner.

A report published by AutoNews today said Aurica Motors General Manager, Mr Matt Pitagora, has been in discussions with NUMMI for the past three months, and is hopeful his plan to build zero emissions vehicles will keep the plant open, as well as providing jobs for the plant’s 4700 strong workforce.

“We want to keep the plant open, and we believe we have a very viable plan to do so by manufacturing electric cars,” Mr Pitagora said.

“It’s all about keeping the lights on.”

Aurica, a little-known company based in Santa Clara, California, currently consists of only eight employees and unpublicised finances, but has high hopes for the NUMMI facility saying it could turn the plant around within two years. If successful, Aurica said it could begin training NUMMI staff as early as April with the aim of retaining as many staff as possible.

Although the proposal is still in its infancy, Aurica hopes to finance the move by tapping green car economic stimulus funds made available by the US federal government. Aurica already has a chassis design at the ready for its proposed ‘E-Car’. The EV is expected to sell for between USD$40,000 and $50,000 (AUD$43,680 and $54,600).

Mr Pitagora declined to give details about how much backing his company has received from private investors, or how much federal aid it would be seeking.

“We need to work with the Nummi people to fine tune the numbers about how much it actually takes to run the plant,” he said.

Though yet to make a single sale, Aurica has been working on its prototype for the past four years and is said to be developing a new electronic system called Recurve Drive System (RDS) that allows EVs to travel greater distances on the same battery charge. Aurica’s approach rests largely on the utilisation of in-wheel motors. Mr Pitagora said Aurica wants to branch into vehicle manufacturing partly as an outlet for its new drivetrain technology.




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