By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT — (WWJ) The Motor City has a brand new carmaker with a classic name, and a unique goal. Detroit Electric came to life with a glitzy unveiling of a $135,000 electric sports car, and a promise that they won’t make the same mistakes that have hurt other electric vehicle makers.

“I know believe we have earned the right to wear the proud name of Detroit,” says Detroit Electric CEO Albert Lam.

Lam, along with other members of Detroit Electric management unveiled the company’s first vehicle—the SP:01 sports car. Lam said the vehicle has a range of 180 miles on a single charge, and a top speed of 155 miles per hour.

“It is the fastest pure electric production vehicle on the planet at the moment.”

Detroit Electric takes its name from a company that sold 13,000 electric cars between 1907 and 1939.

Local government leaders were on hand for Detroit Electric’s coming out party in the lobby of the Fisher Building.

“We’re getting a fourth auto manufacturer based in the region,” said Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano. “This is another affirmation of our auto industry’s prominence. We really hope this is only the beginning.”

The SP:01 sports car aims at being an attention grabbing beginning for Detroit Electric. They plan to follow it with three other more mass market vehicles—including a sedan and hatchback—with sticker prices starting in the thirty thousand dollar neighborhood.

CEO Albert Lam says the sports car will begin production in August. The other vehicles, he says, will follow in the next year.

Other electric carmakers have struggled to survive. Fisker is looking at a possible bankruptcy filing. Tesla has needed far more funding than originally expected.

Lam says Detroit Electric has a different business model, that needs far less in the way of investment.

“We focus all our resources—financial and otherwise—into innovation, design, engineering,” he said. “We contract manufacturing, the build of the vehicle outside.”

The plan, Lam says is to have many of the vehicle’s components manufactured overseas, with final assembly in Detroit. He says he’s following a model used by Apple and Nike.

Detroit Electric will have a headquarters in the Fisher Building, with research, development and manufacturing done at another site in Wayne County, which will be finalized later this month.

“We are currently moving into these offices here, a temporary space, with six people,” said North American CEO Don Graundstadt. “We intend to grow the staff to 20 or 30 depending on the level of business. If things go well, we’ll end up doing an engineering center and an operating center.”

That, Graundstadt says would mean several hundred research and development workers, and several dozen manufacturing workers.

CEO Albert Lam says Detroit Electric expects to sell about 10 thousand vehicles globally in 2014, then grow to about 40 thousand vehicles annually in a few years.

“We’re not looking at growing to the size of GM and Ford. We’re realistic. We want to create product that people love us about.”

Detroit Electric’s funding, Lam says, comes from private investors. He says they have no investment from the Chinese government and plan to keep it that way.

Lam also says the Detroit part of the company’s name is very important.

“We will pledge to make Detroit proud of us. We are not going to just hijack the name and walk away.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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