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Could Maryland be the next Detroit? (Washington Post)
(Washington Post) Andrew Saul started Genovation Cars in late 2007 without any intention of building automobiles from scratch. He said he simply wanted to customize sports cars and convert fleets into hybrid vehicles.
Then the economy crashed. Fleet managers were low on money, and people weren’t very interested in souped-up sports cars anymore.
“It began to make more sense for us to create something from the ground up,” said Saul, 46. “For someone to take a new car and get rid of a perfectly good engine didn’t seem like a viable business model.”
In the four years since, Saul, who has a background in banking and real estate and is the son of real estate developer B.F. Saul II, has poured $3 million of his own money into creating the G2, a two-door plug-in electric car he hopes to manufacture in Maryland.
There’s just one big detail to work out — raising the $125 million necessary to set up a plant and produce the vehicles. He said he hopes to secure funding this year and begin selling the G2 by 2015.
The number of electric and hybrid vehicles on the market has soared in recent years, but Saul said the G2 would offer a sportier alternative to what’s currently available.
“I love cars,” Saul said. “I’ve always enjoyed driving them, but felt guilty about what they were doing to the environment.”
Saul said he owns a Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt and a Lexus hybrid.
The G2, which would come in electric and hybrid versions, would be peppered with environmentally-friendly details. The body of the car would use soy-based resins, and carpets would include fabric made of recycled water bottles, said Steve Rogers, the company’s co-founder, president and chief technology officer.
The Rockville company has plans to build a 40,000-square-foot plant somewhere in Maryland, where 125 workers would manufacture up to 3,000 cars a year.
“It’s important that we’re able to be profitable at low volumes,” Rogers said, adding that the company would make money if it sells at least 1,000 cars a year at about $60,000 a pop.
Last week, thanks to a $135,100 grant from Maryland Industrial Partnerships, Genovation Cars tested its prototype at a University of Maryland wind tunnel. The model car, which was made of aluminum and foil, and measured three-eighths the size of a full-size vehicle, was subjected to gusts of up to 140 miles per hour from all angles.
“We want to make this one of the most aerodynamic vehicles on the market,” Saul said.
Genovation Cars isn’t the only local player hoping to manufacture electric cars domestically.
Virginia businessman Terry McAuliffe, who bought Hong Kong-based EuAuto Technology last year, said he is considering opening a car plant in Virginia that would manufacture the battery-powered MyCar. The two-door electric car is slated to retail for about $10,000.
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