V-Vehicle Co., a mysterious automaking startup being backed by venture capital powerhouse Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, has unveiled its plans to build a factory in Louisiana to make what it calls a "high quality, environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient" car that it promises will take the U.S. automotive market by storm.
Just how V-Vehicle plans to do that isn't quite clear, however, given the scant details on the technology behind it. Kleiner, which revealed last month that it had invested in an unnamed carmaker, said only that it would aim at providing high-volume, low-cost vehicles (see Green Light post).
The San Diego-based startup is also getting backing from Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens, who has evangelized for switching the country's vehicles to run on natural gas (see Pickens Wants Natural Gas-Fueled Big Rigs).
But V-Vehicle and its backers didn't say what fuel the new car will use in their announcement. Instead, they focused on their manufacturing plans, which will involve an investment of "at least $248 million" to build a factory in Monroe, La. that will employ about 1,400 people when up and running.
Neither Kleiner nor Pickens revealed the amount of their investment in V-Vehicle, but a report from the News Star in Louisiana said the two have invested about $100 million in the company.
The News Star also reported that the company is seeking to raise $400 million to $500 million in equity and debt financing.
The company, founded by Frank Varasano, a former Oracle Corp. executive and engineering and manufacturing practice leader at Booz Allen Hamilton, will also lean heavily on government subsidies.
It will receive about $67 million in state incentives, and is applying for loans from the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program. That's the same Department of Energy program that has seen applicants ranging from startups Tesla Motors and Bright Automotive to the now-bankrupt Chrysler and General Motors, as well as a host of battery companies seeking to supply the automotive industry (see Green Light post).
Given the comments made by Ray Lane, a Kleiner managing partner and V-Vehicle board member, it sounds like V-Vehicle's innovations may lie largely in its design and manufacturing processes.
"The thing that excites me the most about V-Vehicle Company is that it is a holistic change," Lane said in a prepared statement. "We're thinking about, from beginning to end, how to reconstruct a car company."
The company also has brought on Mazda Miata designer Tom Matano as design director.
Kleiner has previously backed luxury hybrid-electric startup Fisker Automotive and has taken a stake in Think North America, the U.S. subsidiary of Norwegian electric automaker Think established in March (see Fisker Raises $85M).