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The Birth Of A New Car Company

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"Teaser" photo (Detroit Electric photo)

“Teaser” photo (Detroit Electric photo)

jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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DETROIT (WWJ) – One week after traditional car companies unveiled dozens of new vehicles at the New York Auto Show, executives of a non-traditional company will have their own Wednesday night unveiling of a very unique vehicle here in Detroit.

It’s the coming out party for Detroit Electric, a brand new electric vehicle manufacturer, which has taken a historic name.

“We set out to make a positive difference in the world using electric vehicle technology,” said North American CEO Don Graunstadt.


Interview: Jeff Gilbert talks with Detroit Electric North American CEO Don Graunstadt.

Detroit Electric’s first vehicle will be a two seat electric sports car. It will be followed by more mass market vehicles.

“We plan to deliver to you a practical, affordable car that you just don’t want to put in the garage,” said Graunstadt. “One that’s so much fun to drive, and it’s so much fun to drive, that you just want to drive it all the time. The fact that it’s electric is incidental.“

At this point, Detroit Electric is saying very little about its business plan. It does promise more details at next month’s Shanghai Auto Show, including an announcement of a partnership with another auto company.

That could be an indication that the partner company is a Chinese automaker, and that production of some vehicles could be done in China. Detroit Electric officials aren’t commenting on that, but there were some hints in the press release announcing the company’s existence.

“Detroit Electric employs an ‘asset light’ business model, similar to brands such as Apple and Nike, focusing investment on R&D and marketing.”

Apple and Nike are known for doing research and development in the U.S., but manufacturing their products in lower cost countries.

Production of Detroit Electric’s sports car will be done locally. The company says it’s expected to start in August, at a location in metro Detroit. Graunstadt says they’ve narrowed it down to three locations, all in Wayne County.

“One of the reasons we wanted to do this in Detroit,” he said. “This is the Motor City. This is where all the greatest concentration of automotive engineering talent is in the world.”

Over the next 12 months, Detroit Electric plans to hire about 180 people to fill positions in sales and manufacturing.

“We’re finding out very quickly there’s a lot of people that would like to be part of this.”

The Detroit Electric name was used for an electric carmaker in the early 20th century.

Other electric carmakers, including Tesla and Fisker, have struggled. Graunstadt says they know the challenges going in.

“We’re not here to try and re-invent Detroit’s automotive industry. We’re here to cherry-pick the things that we know work.”

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