Everyone and their grandmother knows Detroit is, despite other recent news stories, first and foremost associated with cars, but to keep that recognition the auto companies will have to look to newer ideas. To fully connect with the possible future of the industry they will oddly have to look 70 years into the past to “Detroit Electric,” a company that worked on electric cars until it went under in 1939.
Well, Detroit Electric has been resurrected and has made a numerous promises that appeal to both the Detroit area and car buyers all over. A diverse family of cars, including a limited-edition sports car, would peak the interest of many car buyers. But without a doubt the thing that most captures the attention of those in and around the Motor City is not just these 100% electric vehicles, but the new jobs they promise to bring to the area … about 180 sales and manufacturing jobs to be exact. And those are said to arrive by the end of 2013.
Don Graunstadt, Detroit Electric CEO North America Operations, has helped take the first… and all but forgotten… electric car manufacturer’s brand and resurrected it. From the past he has raised the company all the way to the 18th floor of the Fisher Building. The Downtown location has been locked in with the signing of a long-term lease.
“We are proud to become the fourth car manufacturer born out of Detroit, and the first to manufacture a pure electric sports car from Michigan,” said Graunstadt. “We are committed to doing our part for this great revival of Detroit through innovation, entrepreneurship and determination – what we like to call ‘Detroit 2.0′. Our investors and management team are thankful to the State of Michigan for the help provided in allowing Detroit Electric to carry on the legacy that began in Michigan so many years ago.”
Production will start in August on the first fully electric sports car at a site in Michigan. The facility will have an annual capacity of 2,500 sports cars.
These plans were not made haphazardly. They come with five years of research and engineering development. The first product of this long process will be the limited-edition two-seat sports car. The company says the car has “a bold design, outstanding performance, exhilarating handling characteristics, and impressive range.” If these boasts are true, Detroit Electric may very well be what it claims.
The new sports car will be launched early next month in Detroit, ahead of a global public reveal at the Shanghai Motor Show on April 20. Detroit Electric will announce a major partnership with a global carmaker at that show. This announcement is scheduled for the first day of the show.
Of course, the sports car is just the first of what is planned to be multiple, diverse, car styles. Two other high-performance vehicles are scheduled to roll out by the end of 2014. The company’s first brainchild, the sports car, will be available in many of their target markets by the end of August 2013, if all goes according to plan.
Detroit was where the electric car was first produced, which does back to the beginning of the 20th century. At the epicenter of this corner of the auto industry was the original Detroit Electric, which innovated and sold more electric cars than any of its competitors. Detroit Electric made around 13,000 electric cars when it stood as the market leader. This was a record for electric vehicle production in the 20th century. Customers of Detroit Electric included Thomas Edison, Mamie Eisenhower, John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Clara Ford, the wife of Henry Ford.
The brand was brought back in 2008 Albert Lam, former group CEO of the Lotus Engineering Group and executive director of Lotus Cars England. The goal is to produce an electric vehicle that seamlessly integrates refined aesthetics, innovative technology and superior handling and performance.
Lam has taken a page from the likes of Apple and Nike to safeguard sustainable growth by focusing the majority of investments on R&D and marketing. Lam also brings a variety of operational disciplines from his time heading technology and innovation driven businesses, like Apple and Sun Microsoft in Asia, to Detroit Electric.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) welcomed Detroit Electric to the community.
“Detroit Electric’s decision to establish its new headquarters in Detroit is great news because it builds on Michigan’s automotive heritage and places the company in the world’s automotive epicenter with a business climate that will enable its success,” said Michigan Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Michael A. Finney. “We look forward to Detroit Electric’s continued growth in the state as it creates innovative vehicles and new job opportunities for Michigan workers.”
Albert Lam added, “I am very fortunate to be working with a group of very talented engineers to create something really special. The sports car will allow us to demonstrate to the world our ability to build an exciting and innovative product. This DNA will be translated across to our future sedans. All our cars will be fun to drive and deliver exceptional performance within their class.”
Detroit, its famous industry, its people and the world at large can only wait and see if this company’s plans and framework have staying power. We’ll find out soon. We can’t wait to see the sport car.