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There could be hope for Fremont's NUMMI plant. It's set to be shut down April 1, leaving more than 4,700 workers jobless, but there's word now that a Bay Area-based automaker is looking to turn it into an electric powerplant.
Santa Clara-based Aurica Motors is proposing a plan to build electric vehicles at the plant. The start-up wants plug the gap, so to speak, and use the facility to make it's Aurica E-Car.
"We want to keep the plant open, and we believe we have a very viable plan to do so by manufacturing electric cars," Aurica's general manager, Matt Pitagora told Automotive News. "It's all about keeping the lights on."
Pitagora says the company has been negotiating with NUMMI for the past three months. The company has already raised millions of dollars in investments from private backers but Pitagora didn't say who has invested or how much they have so far.
The major hurdle is still money -- they need $1 billion more to get the plant up and running.
If it all goes their way, Aurica, currently an eight-employee company, would transition the existing NUMMI workers onto their payrolls and begin training them in April.
Their plug-in car, which has yet to be revealed, is scheduled to go into production in two years and would cost somewhere around $40,00-$50,000. An online search for Aurica's promised hope turned up several articles about the proposed plant but nothing to show for it. The company's Web site describes their e-car but doesn't show pictures or even drawings of the model they're working on.
Even if it somehow attained the $1 billion it needs, Aurica faces a tough road in making Fremont it's home. In addition to retooling the facility into an electric powerplant, they would have to get past the city's rules and cost to put down roots there.
Bruce Kern, executive director of the Economic Development Alliance for Business, has been working closely with NUMMI on the shutdown plans and says it could cost half a billion dollars to change the factory's model.
NUMMI spokesman Lance Tomasu said they're happy to entertain the plans but sounds doubntful they will come to pass, telling the Oakland Tribune, "We are not sure whether their proposal is viable."
There had been talk of keeping the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. open and possibly turning it into production facility for Toyota hybrids and GM cars. And rumors of it turning out electric vehicles for Tesla Motors or Fisker Automotive also proved false.