HK Motors unveils prototype vehicle: The wow factor|Company plans to build 1B cars
By By Kerry Whipple Bean
MONTGOMERY — With its sleek, futuristic design, a hybrid prototype vehicle unveiled by HK Motors and its new design partner Tuesday could be a big part of the economic future of south Alabama, officials said.
Hybrid Kinetic Motors, which has said it intends to build a $4.3 billion plant in Bay Minette by 2013, entered a $5 million contract with Italdesign Giugiaro Tuesday for the design and engineering of a family of hybrid vehicles.
When HK Motors and Giugiaro officials pulled the cover off the prototype, the gleaming silver car was met with “oohs” and “aahs.” The sports car can seat three adults and one child, with the driver seated in the front center.
The roof — which has solar panels that help power the vehicle — is hinged and lifts up with the sides to allow entry into the car, somewhat reminiscent of the limited edition Delorean of the 1980s — a car made famous by the movie “Back to the Future.”
But amid the excitement over the project, state officials acknowledged the skepticism that has met the plans. HK Motors has said it will produce 1 million vehicles once it reaches full capacity by 2018. By 2012, automotive production in the United States could be back up to 14 million to 15 million cars per year — meaning that HK Motors would be producing a significant share of the market if it did reach capacity. The company has said it would employ up to 5,800 people.
The company is taking some unusual steps toward financing, including using the EB-5 visa program for immigrant investors, which allows investors who contribute $500,000 to an economic development project that creates 10 jobs to receive visas for themselves and their family members under the age of 21.
HK Motors will have to reach a financial threshold — between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in the bank — before the state will offer any incentives, state officials have said.
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