After securing funding from an overseas investor, MVP RV turned the lights back on at its Moreno Valley, Calif., factory and began building trailers a few weeks ago with 55 workers, slowly paying back debts one at a time, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
“Everybody is driving with their brakes on,” said CEO and President Brad Williams, referring to the calculated approach the company is taking to increase production and pay suppliers and contact dealerships.
The company isn’t currently hiring or accepting applications, he said.
On Friday (March 26), he had two pages of trailer orders on his desk.
Gary and Dottie Williams, of Hawthorne — no relation to Brad Williams — ordered the company’s Summit travel trailer in April 2009. Nearly a year later, Gary Williams still has a deposit on the trailer through Giant RV and expects it to be delivered soon.
“I didn’t mind waiting,” he said. “If you wait and it’s something you really like, it’s worth the wait.”
Williams shut down MVP RV’s plant in the middle of 2009. Lacking capital, the company first tried merging with competitors and then sought loans from banks. Neither proved successful, so the company went overseas looking for investors.
The company considered bankruptcy, but didn’t want to “go out like that,” said Roger Humeston, CFO and chief administrative officer. Humeston said he explained to investors that the RV industry was bound to “come back with a vengeance.”
While looking for funding for their RV operations, they encountered CT&T, a South Korean firm interested in making small electric vehicles in the Unites States.
The idea of MVP-EV was born. Executives of both companies announced a partnership in September that would have MVP build CT&T’s cars, but not before MVP raised investment capital to reopen the Moreno Valley plant and retrofit the facility to make electric vehicles.
Unable to secure funding, the plan to build CT&T’s vehicles has hit a “plateau,” Williams said. The agreement between the two companies doesn’t preclude CT&T from partnering with another West coast manufacturer, he said.
A Moreno Valley, Calif.-based RV company that partnered last year with a foreign car maker, expects to begin building the more diminutive vehicles by the second quarter.
Brad Williams, CEO of MVP RV, said Jan. 14 that he expects to finalize a funding agreement in the next 30 to 60 days that would allow him to retrofit his current RV factory into a plant to build electric vehicles, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
Williams was in Detroit last week to meet with an investment group and also watch as CT&T, the company’s foreign partner, unveiled new electric vehicle models at the North American International Auto Show.
MVP RV and South Korean-based car maker CT&T partnered last year to form MVP-EV to build the foreign company’s brand of small electric vehicles in the United States. At the time, officials had said they hoped to have the first vehicles rolling off an assembly line by January, and employing 120 people initially.
Williams will continue to build RVs in a separate building on the MVP campus.
Williams acknowledged that announcements like his cause excitement, and perhaps impatience, among the community. But he said deals like the one he’s been seeking to pay for his factory’s makeover take time.
“Once the funding occurs, we can pick up more speed,” he said. CT&T has a partnership in place with another factory in South Carolina, Williams said. If MVP can get the final amount of funding it needs within the next two months, it could be the first U.S. factory making the cars, he said.
Williams said that a contingent of CT&T executives who visited the Moreno Valley factory recently noted that they would need more space to eventually build electric buses.
“I think the electric car is here to stay,” he said. “I’m glad we’re getting our foot in the door.”
Last week CT&T unveiled two fully electric concept cars at the Detroit auto show.
A company that will turn out electric vehicles from a Moreno Valley, Calif., factory could ultimately employ as many as 2,000 people if the firm’s products prove as popular as its executives hope.
For now, the venture with South Korean-based CT&T United will hire about 120 workers. The battery-powered vehicles, which are not legal for freeways and can’t go as fast as the speed limits on most major surface streets, will roll off the assembly line by the first part of next year.
CT&T signed a deal Thursday (Sept. 10) to make the electric cars with Moreno Valley-based recreational vehicle company MVP RV. One of two factories MVP owns near March Air Reserve Base will be converted to make electric vehicles by a new company called MVP-EV, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
MVP will continue to manufacture recreational vehicles in the second factory, said Pablo Carmona, vice president of manufacturing for MVP-EV.
The first electric cars are expected to roll out of the new factory in January following several months of refurbishing, Carmona said. It will be the Korean carmaker’s only manufacturing center on the West Coast, as well as its regional sales and service hub.
If the demand is strong enough, the plant could turn out 10,000 vehicles a year by 2011, he said.
Carmona, who started out at this factory on the assembly line in 1996 when it made RVs for Thor of California and worked his way to a management position, said MVP officials expect to start looking for workers in about a month. Some could be people who formerly built RVs at one of several Inland companies that have closed, such as Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., National RV Holdings Inc. and Weekend Warrior Inc., he said.
“People that used to make RVs would be comfortable making these cars,” Carmona said.
CT&T has been making electric vehicles in South Korea and China since it was founded in 2002. The company announced plans to open operations in the United States about two months ago.
Two models, the c-Zone, which resembles a golf cart with a fifth seat in the rear, and the e-Zone, which is reminiscent of the French-built Smart Car, were on display for the signing ceremony at the Riverside Convention Center. It was part of an event called the Riverside County Day of Transformation, which brought leaders together to discuss ways to generate jobs and revitalize the economy.
One of those strategies involves jobs based on renewable energy concepts, and in that regard MVP-EV fits. While it currently costs as much as $60 to fill the tank of a sport utility vehicle, maintenance costs for these models run between $5 and $10 a month.
The vehicles are priced between $7,000 and $17,000, and CT&T has more models on the drawing board, including a battery-powered bus, said Brad Williams, CEO of MVP-EV.
But the top speed for the models displayed Thursday is only about 35 mph. People with errands in their neighborhoods and senior citizens are among the likely marketing targets, and the company calls the cars “neighborhood electrical vehicles.”
The cost and the size of the models are drawbacks for consumers, said Mike Caudill, who writes for NADAGuides.com, a publication of the National Automobile Dealers Association.
“I don’t think the demand is going to be as high as this company hopes it will be,” he said of MVP-EV.
“People don’t have that discretionary income to buy a vehicle to take down to the grocery store,” Caudill said
Caudill also is president of Driven Communications in Temecula which represents an electric motorcycle manufacturer and a Singapore firm that is developing a system to convert standard cars into electric ones. He said price will ultimately determine the popularity of a car that may not exceed speeds of 35 mph.
David Stewart, dean of A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University of California’s Riverside campus, said there’s risk with every startup, but MVP-EV will be marketed all over the West and has minimal competition.
“It won’t replace the internal combustion automobile, but for someone who is retired or for a stay-at-home spouse it could be a good alternative,” Stewart said. “Also, we’re at a stage where we’re receptive to alternative-energy cars.”
The cars could also be popular with government agencies, including police departments and code enforcement personnel, Williams said.
Tom Freeman, spokesman for the Riverside County Economic Development Agency, said a delegation from CT&T, including its founder, Young Gi Lee, visited Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in March seeking sites for its factory. State, county and city officials helped the company zero in on Moreno Valley.
“This is one of those leads that happened in quick-time,” Freeman said. “In economic development, that doesn’t happen very often.”
Riverside County’s unemployment rate of 14.7% in July is one of the highest of any urbanized counties in the state, and areas such as Moreno Valley and Perris, hit hard by foreclosures, have struggled more than most. That is why the news pleased officials from Moreno Valley. Bonnie Flickinger, mayor pro-tem, vowed to purchase the first vehicle that comes off the MVP-EV line.