Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an article by the Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif., offering an in-depth look at the up-and-down ride endured by now shuttered MVP RV Inc. and its relationship with Chinese entrepreneur Winston Chung. To view the entire story click here.
MVP RV Inc., a Riverside, Calif., company that had high hopes of selling $5 billion worth of recreational vehicles to China, has shut down and will be sold off amid a dispute pitting one foreign investor against others.
After faltering in 2009, the company had been given a second chance and seemingly a financial windfall when Winston Chung, a Chinese businessman and inventor of a type of lithium batteries, came to its rescue.
Chung was named chairman and after making an initial investment, pledged another $310 million to MVP RV so it could export 30,000 recreational vehicles to China including all-electric models, a plan that earned the company a trip to Washington, D.C. and mention by the White House as it lauded trade opportunities with China.
There’s hope the company could return to recreational vehicle production again depending on who buys it, which could include Chung himself who has reportedly made offers. It wouldn’t be the first time MVP RV had been revived in its short life that’s included very public ups and downs.
Three former Thor California executives started the company in mid-2008 just as the recession was taking hold and by 2009 shut down the factory in search of an investor. At first, the company made the auto show rounds lauding a partnership with a South Korean firm to build all-electric cars, but the deal never happened. Then Chung came on board and MVP RV fired up a former Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. factory to build RVs, including electric prototypes with Chung’s battery technology.
But Chung had been one among a group of Chinese investors called Fadar International who now argue Chung shoved them out of the MVP investment, used the RV company as a method to gain international prominence and crafted a fraudulent document to claim full ownership of their stake in MVP RV, according to a lawsuit filed last August in Riverside County Superior Court.
The litigation is pending, but in mid-December Fadar International called for the shutdown of MVP RV and signed over its assets to a firm that liquidates companies to pay off creditors versus forcing a company to file for bankruptcy.
Shortly after, the company laid off its entire work force, about 200 people, but didn’t file a WARN notice with the state.
To read the entire article click here.
MVP RV, the Riverside, Calif., recreational vehicle maker that credited its revival to Chinese investor Winston Chung who pledged to give the company $310 million to build RVs for China, has gone out of business, according to the firm now managing its assets.
The Press Enterprise, Riverside, reported that the company assigned all of its assets to a private, non-profit, liquidation firm on Dec. 12, according to Michael Joncich, manager of Credit Management Association’s adjustment bureau. MVP RV had sold off all its trailer and RV inventory to dealers and since December had not taken any new orders, Joncich said.
To view the entire story click here.
Winston Chung came to Southern California two years ago like a standard-bearer for the new China, a wealthy Hong Kong entrepreneur with visions of creating an electric vehicle industry by reviving struggling manufacturing firms including Riverside-based MVP RV Inc.
Some dreams rolled out as planned, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The battery scientist and clean-energy promoter bought control of four Southland specialty vehicle makers. UC Riverside renamed a building as Winston Chung Hall, saying that the $13 million he provided for green power research was the biggest donation in campus history.
But other ventures skidded off course, the biggest failure being a bid to step into the social spotlight by purchasing the Balboa Bay Club and Resort, a Rat Pack-era landmark where Republican power brokers mingled and John Wayne tossed back Conmemorativo tequila. A seven-figure deposit Chung made in June on a Newport Harbor mansion once owned by actor Nicolas Cage is also in jeopardy because he never came up with the money to complete the purchase.
The $174.5-million deal for the combination yacht club and hotel and its sister Newport Beach Country Club was called off Friday (Jan. 13). Chung never came up with the money as agreed, forfeiting what city documents show was a nonrefundable $4-million down payment.
“We were told he was having difficulty moving money out of China,” David Wooten, chief executive of the clubs, said Monday. The deal could be revived if Chung produces the cash, but for now, competing offers will be considered, he said.
The setbacks are bad news for Brad Williams, president and CEO of MVP RV, a builder of motorhomes and trailers.
A plan to increase manufacturing at the company, with the four-year goal of selling $5 billion in tour buses and campers to newly wealthy Chinese consumers, has been on hold for a year while awaiting approval from Chinese regulators.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Williams said that about $30 million from a Chinese investment group that included Chung rescued his idled company in 2010. Among other things, the backing enabled MVP to buy a 24-acre Riverside manufacturing complex from bankrupt RV giant Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.
But an additional $310 million in funding that Chung had pledged to jump-start production appears to be in jeopardy. At the very least, it won’t flow until Chinese authorities approve the design of the tour buses and campers that MVP hoped to sell in China.
Williams, who had talked of generating 1,200 jobs in the economically battered Inland Empire — a deal the White House praised as an emblem of U.S.-China cooperation — expressed frustrations in an interview last year.
“I’m dying to start hiring and I can’t,” he said.
Chung, 53, whose companies in the south China boom town of Shenzhen make products such as electric vehicle power trains and storage batteries for power plants, insisted early this month that the setbacks in Southern California would be temporary.
He blamed the delays on Chinese government reviews. Cash for the Balboa Bay Club and the waterfront estate was being held up by China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, Chung said. His plan to sell U.S. motorhomes in China was waiting approval from the country’s Ministry of Commerce.
In telephone interviews, he said Chinese authorities had assured him that approvals would be forthcoming in time for him to buy the properties and to start manufacturing motorhomes in March.
“One-hundred percent certain they’re going to go through,” Chung said of his pending deals. A spokeswoman declined to comment further Monday.
Aaron Brickman, a U.S. Commerce Department official overseeing a program to stimulate foreign investment, said difficulties in getting funds out of China are not surprising. Unlike major Western countries, China controls the outward flow of cash as well as money coming into the country.
“China is still becoming comfortable with its own evolution regarding capital flow and investments,” Brickman said.
Editor’s Note: Here are two looks at how China Central Television (CCTV) covered the announcement earlier this year that Chinese investor Winston Chung had made a major investment in California-based MVP RV to produce 30,000 motorhomes for a growing RV market in China.
Click here to see film clips from the China TV network’s coverage. A shot list, explaining what’s on the video, is availabel on the link. A slightly edited CCTV news story story follows.
In efforts to step up overseas investments, Chinese private companies put about 5 billion U.S. dollars into American companies in 2010, double the figure in 2009.
In 2010, the Shenzhen-based Winston Battery Company invested more than US $310 million into MVP RV and brought the van manufacturer back from the verge of bankruptcy.
As was reported by the Wall Street Journal, when sales were slow last year, Mr. Williams led a team of MVP RV executives to Shenzhen, China. There he was introduced to Winston Chung, whose company, Winston Global Energy, makes batteries for electric vehicles. Over the course of several months, Mr. Chung became the majority shareholder in MVP RV in exchange for his US$310 million investment.
Messrs. Williams and Chung hope to develop a battery-powered motor home for the U.S. market and promote it in China’s rapidly expanding automotive market as well.
Balqon Corp., the world’s first company to specialize in the lorries motored by non-polluting lithium battery, also received investment from the Winston Battery.
“The partnership is very beneficial for us because we not only receive the investment but we also have our customer or entry into the Chinese market. Similarly we’re also now the exclusive distributor of Winston battery in North American market… For us, it’s a win-win solution,” said Jaime Jimenez, CEO of Balqon Corporation.
Krystal Enterprises, a luxury concierge car manufacturor, is the third company benefiting from Winston’s investment.
Winston’s large inputs into the U.S. automobile industry also eased the local employment pressure to a considerable extent. The MVP RV company is starting to recruit new workers and the formerly laid-off have retured to their work, after the US$310 million investment was in place.
Luis Alfaro, a worker at MVP RV, said: “I got an unemployment for 6 months, there’s a new company by the plan…I appreciate they give us opportunities.”
During Chinese president Hu Jintao’s visit to the U.S., many Sino-U.S. co-orporative investment projects were signed. The investment to the MVP RV is one of them. It demonstrates that China’s overseas investment has developed to a higher level of mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and so on. Analysts say that opportunities for private Chinese companies’ investments in the US are increasing. And the clean-energy, auto, IT and medical care industries are the ones to look out for.
Two years ago, Brad Williams halted production at his 250-employee recreation-vehicle company and eventually laid off more than 200 workers, unable to find cash to keep his factory humming when sales slowed.
“During the downturn, we went on the hunt for capital, but after 44 presentations we came up short,” Williams, 56, told the Wall Street Journal.
Today MVP RV Inc. is on the verge of hiring 1,200 workers and boosting production by some 30,000 motorhomes to 40,000 this year. The difference is a $310 million investment from a Chinese entrepreneur who sees Asia as an untapped market for American-made RVs.
“It’s almost something out of a fairy tale,” Williams says.
His Riverside, Calif., company is one of a growing number of small U.S. companies benefiting from a surge in foreign direct investment from China.
Once dominated by purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds, Chinese foreign investment is shifting to mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and taking stakes in new businesses.
Private-sector Chinese businesses and investors put nearly $5 billion into U.S. firms of all sizes last year, more than double the amount in 2009, according to the Rhodium Group, a New York research firm. That’s a small fraction of the more than $55 billion that has flowed from the U.S. to China, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
But the flow of private-sector investment toward the U.S. from China is expected to grow substantially, says Rhodium research director Thilo Hanemann.
It isn’t clear how much of the Chinese investment funds go to small businesses. Many of the deals with small businesses are under $10 million and involve Chinese investors looking for early-stage U.S. partners as an entree into the U.S. market and for exporting goods and services back to China,, says Siva Yam, president of the U.S.-China Chamber of Commerce.
Recent deals have involved clean-energy, automotive, aerospace, information-technology and health-care industries, he says.
The White House, meanwhile, is encouraging small-business owners to seek global partnerships. Of the nearly 30 million small and midsize companies, only 1% currently sell goods abroad, trade figures show.
George Haley, a marketing professor at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, says although China investors provide welcome capital to U.S. companies, he worries that the ultimate goal in small-business investments is part of an effort by Beijing to relocate the companies to China and reap gains in technology, resources and jobs.
Williams, however, describes MVP RV’s deal as a partnership, not a takeover. “We’re not exporting jobs, we’re exporting products. We’re a homegrown company that happens to have a partner from China,” he says.
His lifeline arose almost by accident. When sales were slow last year, Mr Williams traveled with a team of MVP RV executives to Shenzhen, China, as part of plan to remake the company as an electric-car manufacturer. Talks with the Chinese electric-car company he’d gone to meet collapsed, but Williams was introduced to Winston Chung, whose company, Winston Global Energy, makes batteries for electric vehicles.
Over the course of several months, Chung became the majority shareholder in MVP RV in exchange for his $310 million investment. Williams and Chung hope to develop a battery-powered motor home for sale in the U.S. and export to China’s rapidly expanding automotive market.
Williams says although Chung is a majority owner, the company was very clear throughout negotiations that the MVP RV team will be running the business. He would regret being perceived as having sold out the company and offshoring jobs. Williams adds, “That fear is unfounded. As American businesses, we should not be fearful of partnering with foreign investors. This is something we need to do.”
A Harbor City, Calif., manufacturer of all-electric trucks and tractors has signed a $16 million deal to build 300 drive systems for inner-city buses in China, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported.
The deal is the latest expansion of Balqon Corp.’s growing global presence in electric vehicles, boats, motorhomes and power storage systems.
Balqon, which began building electric drayage trucks for use in local ports in early 2009, plans to expand its Harbor City assembly plant and hire 150 new workers to meet demand.
“We’re seeing major evolutions and advancements in the electric vehicle industry, with new generations of batteries coming out about every 18 months and each gaining tremendously on the previous generation,” said Balwinder Samra, Balqon president and CEO.
“It’s developing like the personal computer did a few years ago, with rapid advancements in (mileage) range, storage capacity, size and application.”
The new agreement between Balqon and Winston Global Energy, a Chinese lithium-ion battery maker, gives the partnership exclusive contracts to build electric buses, trucks, motorhomes and even marine vessels throughout much of North and South America, Asia and the Middle East.
The drive systems being built at the Harbor City assembly plant cost about $53,000 each and will be exported to China during the next 18 months.
Samra has doubled his work force to more than 60 since mid-January and plans to hire another 100 or so by summer.
He sees rising oil prices, better batteries and rising demand converging around 2015 to make all-electric vehicles economically competitive with traditional diesel, gasoline and hybrid cars and trucks.
“It’s moving forward faster than anyone predicted,” Samra said. “Places like China and India in particular are really pushing research and development into battery and electric technology because they see the drain that oil (price) fluctuations can have on an economy, and they don’t want to have oil prices being a drag on their economies like they’ve seen in America and Europe. It’s smart planning. You can’t run an economy where a single commodity can swing you from growth to recession.”
The new drive systems improve on the line of electric container trucks and yard tractors Balqon began building for the Port of Los Angeles in early 2009 with $500,000 in seed money from the port and South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Since then, about 25 such vehicles have been ordered for use in local ports, with dozens more electric drive systems and motors purchased by public and private firms around the globe.
Using Winston Global’s lithium batteries and Balqon’s drive trains, the two companies tentatively plan to build 1,000 zero-emission buses for use in China within a few years.
Winston Global’s CEO Henry Chung is also working with Balqon to develop electric motorhomes.
The first one, a 45-foot prototype, was completed in September.
Another of Chung’s companies, MVP RV of Riverside, plans to manufacture 30,000 motorhomes using Balqon drive trains in the Inland Empire in coming years and export them to China.
Chung, a rising electric-vehicle tycoon, also recently announced a $10 million donation to the University of California, Riverside Department of Engineering.
“As soon as you get those batteries capable of maintaining a range of around 350 to 400 miles, which I believe will happen in the next 36 months, you’ll see interest explode,” Samra said. “The electric motor has already proven itself in terms of power and propulsion … meeting or exceeding the capability of diesel or gasoline, so the only remaining issue is battery capacity.”
If Samra’s forecasts hold, his 26,000-square-foot plant in Harbor City, nestled in an industrial neighborhood between Long Beach and San Pedro, could become one of California’s largest and only remaining auto assembly plants.
A Toyota truck assembly plant in North Long Beach shuttered most operations a few years ago, and a joint Toyota-General Motors plant known as the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., or NUMMI, was shuttered in 2010.
Tesla Motors, an electric sports car manufacturer, has since taken over the NUMMI site and plans to build an electric-powered sedan there beginning in 2012.
“We believe that combining our lithium battery and fast-charging technology with Balqon’s proprietary electric drive systems will enable us to provide cost-competitive zero-emissions solution to a growing global demand for electric vehicles,” Chung said in an e-mail statement.
Amid all the publicity surrounding MVP RV Inc.’s mammoth deal to build 30,000 motorhomes for a growing market in China comes an alternative viewpoint from none other than Chinese travel experts.
The China People’s Daily reported today (Jan. 25) in its online edition that so far the country has less than 10,000 motorhomes, most of which are used in the entertainment business for mobile dressing rooms, said Shangguan Zhoudong, a Beijing-based independent auto analyst.
“People rarely use RVs as a way to travel long distances in China, because Chinese culture does not nurture a spirit of adventure, as most people value stability,” the auto analyst stated.
The Chinese are more accustomed to driving sedans or SUVs and staying overnight at hotels while traveling, said Cui Dongshu, deputy secretary-general of the National Passenger Car Association.
This report butts heads with a statement distributed today by the Los Angeles Times and attributed to MVP RV benefactor Winston Chung. The Times reported that Chug said the Chinese government has placed a focus on developing the RV industry as a cornerstone of the Chinese ideal of the happy home life.
“A family with an RV is a family more in harmony with each other,” he said, speaking through a translator. “During vacations, people can get into the RV and enjoy quality family time.”
China is hungry for the kind of recreational vehicles built in Southern California — at least according to the Chinese entrepreneur who struck a deal with a Riverside firm to build and export $5 billion worth of them.
The Chinese government has placed a focus on developing the RV industry as a cornerstone of the Chinese ideal of the happy home life, Winston Chung told the Los Angeles Times.
“A family with an RV is a family more in harmony with each other,” he said, speaking through a translator. “During vacations, people can get into the RV and enjoy quality family time.”
Under Chung’s agreement with MVP RV of Riverside, Calif., the company plans to manufacture the vehicles in the U.S. and export them to China. However, Chung would not rule out moving operations to China in the future.
Chung spoke about the burgeoning market in China for the motorhomes after a news conference with UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White, where they announced Chung’s $10-million donation to UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering.
In an interview with The Times, a smiling Chung cheerfully detailed his plans to build and export 30,000 diesel-powered motorhomes to China, and eventually to develop electric-powered RVs. Chung, 52, is the founder of battery maker Winston Global Energy.
The nascent Chinese RV industry has the potential for high profit margins, despite high taxes on gas-guzzling vehicles, Chung said. He added that the increasing value of the yuan, the Chinese currency, will make buying an RV more affordable for families.
Headquartered in Shenzhen, China, Winston Global Energy produces batteries for electric bikes, electric motorcycles, electric automobiles and hybrid vehicles, and is currently the only company in the world engaged in mass production of rechargeable storage batteries for buses.
Last year, Chung became a majority owner in Riverside’s MVP RV Inc. The company hopes to soon begin manufacturing 10,000 tour-bus-style and 20,000 smaller recreational vehicles. They will be exported over the next three to four years. The company said it would hire 1,200 new workers, primarily in production line jobs.
Formed in 2008, MVP RV began producing primarily travel trailers but stopped production four months later when stifled by the recession. The company was exploring the idea of building electric cars when the owners were introduced to Chinese entrepreneur Chung.
He paid $18.6 million in July for the Riverside factories and headquarters that were once the home of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection and left the area in 2009.
For now, the emphasis will be on gas-powered RVs, he said. The Chinese market “is really into gasoline RVs, so that is why we want to focus on that and trying to import it into China,” he said. “If we do move manufacturing to China, I would like it to be for the manufacturing of electric RVs.”
MVP RV has already created a prototype for the electric motorhome and Chung plans to invest more money in the development of the technology in the near future.
Chung’s interest in Southern California began with his initial investment in MVP RV, but he has business dealings in several Southland transportation firms. He hopes to begin developing an electric yacht and plans to invest in several boating companies in Southern California to do so.
Today (Jan. 25), a heavy-duty truck, tractor and electrical systems maker in Los Angeles County that is also owned partly by Chung will announce that he has ordered $15.9 million worth of electric vehicle drive systems made in Southern California for buses in China.
Balqon Corp., based in Harbor City near Long Beach, said it expects to hire 150 workers over the next 18 months to build 300 electric vehicle drive systems to power buses carrying 15 to 40 passengers each. The drive systems are being purchased by Chung’s company in China, Winston Global Energy.
“This order from Winston Global Energy validates the competitiveness of our technology in the global marketplace and will result in the creation of high-tech green jobs domestically,” said Balwinder Samra, Balqon chief executive. Chung is a major shareholder in Balqon, founded in 2005.
The UCR gift would be the largest in the school’s history, officials said. A building within the college of engineering will be renamed Winston Chung Hall and two professorships and a research center will be established in his name. The gift is to fund research related to clean battery power, solar energy and sustainable transportation, according to the university.
The research center, called the Winston Chung Global Energy Center, will focus on “life source rare earth lithium batteries,” a technology invented by Chung, bio-inspired technology and the development of clean energy and energy storage, according to the school.
The gift is “a match of his passion with our ability,” White said. Chung added that this would be his first donation to the school, but he is in talks to continue donations to the school, specifically to medical research.
The University of California, Riverside, announced today (Jan. 24) that Winston Chung, a Chinese battery technology scientist, inventor and entrepreneur, has expressed his intent to give $10 million to support clean battery power, solar energy and sustainable transportation research at the Bourns College of Engineering.
Chung and UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White today will sign a memorandum of understanding that will lead to the gift, which will make Chung the largest individual donor to the campus in UC Riverside history, according to a university news release.
Chung is the founder of Winston Global Energy Limited and inventor of the rare earth lithium yttrium battery.
“The University of California, Riverside, welcomes Mr. Winston Chung as an integral partner in our educational and research mission,” White said. “His investment in this university will result in generations of students and faculty sharing their knowledge with local and global communities, and in new materials and new energy sources for an energy-hungry world. This gift is a wonderful testimony to the current strengths and aspirational future of the UCR Bourns College of Engineering.”
Reza Abbaschian, dean of the Bourns College of Engineering, said Chung’s work on electric vehicles is a perfect match with the Bourns College of Engineering-Center for Environmental Research & Technology (CE-CERT) and the Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy (SC-RISE) at UC Riverside.
“Mr. Chung has created a clean and efficient energy storage that is an expression of a sustainable future,” Abbaschian said. “We are talking about vehicles that go for 180 miles on a single charge and can be recharged in the time it takes to stop and drink a cup of coffee.” He said he is excited by the prospect of future research collaborations, and by the opportunities the gift would mean for engineering students.
When an endowed fund is created in Chung’s name, UC Riverside will:
- Name the building currently known as Engineering Building II as Winston Chung Hall.
- Support two named professorships in the Bourns College of Engineering: the Winston Chung Professorship in Energy Innovation and the Winston Chung Professorship in Sustainability.
- Establish the Winston Chung Global Energy Center within CE-CERT. The center will initially focus on Life Source Rare Earth Lithium batteries, which Chung invented, bio-inspired technology and the development of clean energy and energy storage.
Since arriving in the United States, Winston Global Energy Ltd. announced it will provide $310 million to MVP RV, which is based in Riverside, to promote motorhome exports to China. Additional money will fund development of all-electric RVs and fast-charging electrical systems.
The deal was one of about 70 between the U.S. and China announced in connection with the official state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao, in what was called a demonstration of cooperation between the two countries.
MVP RV expects to export more than 30,000 motorhomes, valued at approximately $5 billion, to China over the next three to four years. The joint venture will push the number jobs at MVP RV from 130 to more than 1,400.
In November, Balqon Corp., a California developer and manufacturer of zero-emission heavy-duty electric vehicles and drive systems, and Winston Battery jointly showcased their drive systems and battery technologies at The World Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exposition in China. The companies demonstrated the world’s first all-electric recreational vehicle, with a range of 200 km on a single charge. The 45-foot RV can be fully charged within 20 minutes, as compared to eight hours using traditional methods.
MVP RV Inc., a Southern California-based manufacturer, has a visionary strategy that continues to chart a new course in the toy hauler trailer industry, according to a news release.
As reported earlier this week, Riverside, Calif.-based MVP RV has launched its newest product at the Mike Thompson RV Winter Super I-5 Show going on now in Santa Fe Springs through Jan. 9. The new Impact was unveiled on Sunday (Dec. 26) at the start of the 15-day show.
The Impact launches with two models with four more to follow. The 18SS features a front side bed, side bath, and two facing sofas in the rear creating maximum sleeping capacity. The 22SS includes the same features and in addition two rear electric beds. Both are equipped with a generator, microwave, awning, fuel station, and much more.
The Impact will be available at all Mike Thompson’s RV locations beginning in January with a special introductory price for the public posted at the store locations.
MVP RV is a privately held RV manufacturing company which recently moved into its current location. The company paid $18.6 million cash for the 500,000 -square-foot facility sitting on 36 acres. The facility was originally built by now-bankrupt Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. MVP RV’S billionaire business partner Winston Chung is a most known for his invention of the Rare Earth Lithiumion Battery. Chung and the management team at MVP RV believe that now is the best time to move forward in the RV business. MVP RV is a debt-free company.
To learn more about Chung, visit www.thunder-sky.com.