The latest domino to fall in the DOE loan saga is new Vehicle Production Group of Allen Park, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit just south of Dearborn. The company's Michigan headquarters has shut its doors and laid off all of its 100 employees, according to reports from USA Today and The Detroit News. The company is best known for its MV-1, a wheelchair-accessible vehicle that resembled a plus-size modern-day interpretation of a London taxi. VPG originally received a $50 million federal loan on the condition and promise that it would develop and sell vehicles powered by compressed natural gas.
The majority of the 2500 vehicles built so far are gasoline-powered. VPG ceased operations in February after the Department of Energy froze its assets, and the company could not find adequate capital to maintain operations and meet the conditions of the loan. Although VPG has ceased day-to-day operations, it reportedly has not yet filed for bankruptcy. Former CEO John Walsh claims the company has several interested buyers.
The company had a network of 84 dealers nationwide and had a back order of 2300 vehicles, many from municipal transit agencies for paratransit services. Walsh claims the bigger issue for the company was the lack of dealers that were mobility specialists.
The MV-1 was built under contract by AM General at the former Hummer plant in Mishawaka, Indiana. It was powered by a Ford 4.6-liter modular V-8 engine. Plans were reportedly in the works to switch to the more powerful and fuel-efficient Ford 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V-6 with a six-speed transmission. AM General has pledged parts and technical support for MV-1s already sold.
Source: USA Today, The Detroit News