An electric carmaker in the Bay Area has proposed a plan to build electric vehicles at Fremont's NUMMI plant — but the proposal faces mammoth hurdles, including getting $1 billion in financing.
Santa Clara-based Aurica Motors wants to convert the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. complex into an auto factory that would produce a zero-emissions, all-electric vehicle costing $40,000 to $50,000.
"The primary hurdle is the financing," said Matt Pitagora, a spokesman for Aurica Motors.
The company estimated it will need more than $1 billion in private and government financing to launch the factory.
So far, Aurica has raised millions of dollars in investments from private backers, but Pitagora wouldn't identify them and wouldn't specify the amount of money raised.
The company has built a prototype of the motor drive system that would be the core of the vehicle. Aurica also is eyeing a property in Fremont where it would move its headquarters.
Aurica's plan won't keep the NUMMI plant from closing its doors on April 1.
At least 6,700 jobs will vanish when NUMMI shuts down.
An estimated 4,700 people who work at the plant will lose their jobs. In addition, suppliers for NUMMI in the Bay Area and Central Valley have announced NUMMI-linked job cuts that top 2,000.
That's because the plant would have to be retooled to produce the new electric car. At present, the NUMMI plant produces Toyota's Corolla and Tacoma vehicles.
"We're talking two years from now before you could have an electric car run off the assembly line at NUMMI," Pitagora said.
Aurica Motors has been sharing its plans with NUMMI executives for the "last few months," Pitagora said.
"While we appreciate their interest in NUMMI, there has not been an opportunity for productive discussions with Aurica," said Lance Tomasu, a NUMMI spokesman. "We are not sure whether their proposal is viable."
Still, the backers of Aurica Motors, which was founded by Greg Bender, a Silicon Valley physicist, believe their plan can rescue thousands of jobs at the NUMMI plant, as well as help the factory's current suppliers.
"We would like to keep all 4,700," Pitagora said.
Starting in April 2010, Aurica Motors intends to retrain the NUMMI workers to manufacture electric cars.
Despite the good intentions, Aurica faces a daunting task to revive the soon-to-close factory.
"Every time NUMMI changed a model, it would cost half a billion dollars," said Bruce Kern, executive director of the Economic Development Alliance for Business. Kern has been working closely with NUMMI in connection with the factory shutdown.
Kern also cautioned that plenty of rumors have surfaced lately about schemes to keep the plant open. None have coalesced into a viable plan yet.
"Many of these have been speculative," Kern said. "They have not been solid proposals."
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477.