An electric vehicle startup announced Wednesday that it is retooling an Indiana factory and hopes to conduct trial runs for two new lines of vehicles by the end of the year.
State officials say SF Motors, a Silicon Valley-based subsidiary of China's Chongqing Sokon Industry Group, plans to hire back some workers who were laid off when AM General halted operations at its Mishawaka plant last year.
The company says it will spend $160 million to buy, renovate and retool the factory, which will serve as the company's main U.S. manufacturing plant. It plans to employ up to 467 workers.
To secure the deal, the state of Indiana is offering the company $3.8 million in tax credits and up to $500,000 for worker training. The state is also offering an additional $653,000 in tax credits through a program that encourages companies to take over existing out-of-operation facilities.
Saint Joseph County, where the factory is located, is also considering an economic incentives package for the company.
Gov. Eric Holcomb joined company officials Wednesday for the announcement in MIshawaka.
“We fully understood that there were a lot of options for SF Motors, but they chose, and we think they chose wisely,” Holcomb said. “And we’re going to make sure they’re proud of that decision for the years to come.”
SF Motors CEO John Zhang said they’re looking forward to producing cars in Mishawaka.
“We have given this plant a new mission to produce premium, intelligent electric vehicles for our customers,” Zhang said.
For plant manager Todd Leahy bringing something new into the Mishawaka plant is familiar.
"We're all very excited. This plant has a long history of launching three different products out of this facility,” Leahy said. “So we're well versed in launching new products and building quality products here."
Right now, about 80 workers are re-tooling the plant so electric vehicles can be made there. Most of them are former AM General employees.
SF Motors says it has plans to re-hire more of the workers who were laid off when AM General's contract with Mercedes-Benz to build R-Class vehicles for the Chinese market ended last June.
There is a training scheme to teach the workers how to make the electric vehicles.
"We're really excited to be on the ground floor of this opportunity and take place in this start-up venture," Leahy said.
In March, SF Motors officials showed off two crossover SUVs vehicles, the SF5 and SF7, at its Santa Clara, California, headquarters. Both vehicles are slated for production at the Indiana factory. The plant will handle full production of the vehicles, from body welding to battery production and final assembly.
Jennifer Weingart of WVPE contributed to this report.