Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Korean electric-car maker considers Philadelphia assembly plant

CT&T Co. Ltd., which hopes to begin selling its tiny cars later this year, visited with Mayor Nutter last week.

Korean electric-car maker considers Philadelphia assembly plant

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Philadelphia is trying hard to attract a South Korean electric-car maker.

Representatives of CT&T Co. Ltd. met with Mayor Nutter last week in an effort to bring a “regional assembly and sales” operation to Philadelphia, said Curt Westlake, the company’s senior director of marketing.

In essence, it would be a final-assembly operation with a retail location where people could buy the electric car called the eZone. Founded in 2002, CT&T now makes its vehicles in South Korea. But its plan to expand in the United States calls for the company to establish RAS sites around the nation.

So far, it has set up joint ventures to do so in Greenville, S.C., and Riverside, Calif., Westlake said. The typical RAS will employ 90 to 125 people.

CT&T intends to make its U.S.-market cars entirely in this country within 18 to 24 months. To do so, it will set up a central manufacturing location to make frames and other key parts, Westlake said. States in the running for that factory are South Carolina, Georgia, California and Alabama. The decision time for that is in the next 30 days, he said.

Though we’ve heard a lot of hype about various plans for electric vehicles, CT&T fully hopes to be selling its first eZones in the United States before year’s end, Westlake said.

However, the company has a bit of a problem. Right now, it can’t import anything that can go faster than 25 m.p.h., he said. Then, there is the matter of where consumers can drive what is considered a “neighborhood electric vehicle” or “low-speed vehicle” with a range of 70 miles. Some states don’t permit them on the road. Others allow them only on streets with posted speeds as high as 35 m.p.h.

That could make some commutes tricky, but not impossible, said Westlake, who said he’s able to do about 80 percent of his errands driving a two-passenger eZone around Greenville.

The eZone looks like a cousin of Daimler’s Smart Fortwo. With a retail price projected to be under $15,000, the eZone would be comparable to the gasoline-fueled Fortwo, which has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price starting from $11,990.

Westlake said CT&T will be showing off its cars at events associated with the Group of 20 Summit in Pittsburgh later this week at the invitation of Gov. Rendell.

Inquirer Columnist
About this blog
Mike Armstrong blogs about Philadelphia corporations and business-related topics. Contact him at 215-854-2980. Reach Mike at marmstrong@phillynews.com.

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