Merger links Lutz's VL with Virginia governor's EV venture

VL Automotive has been buying Fisker Karmas, which it rebuilds with V-8 engines and altered bodies.
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WASHINGTON -- VL Automotive, a sports car start-up founded by Detroit 3 veteran Bob Lutz, has merged with EV venture GreenTech Automotive to bring its Fisker Karma-based Destino car to market.

VL has been snapping up Karmas since Fisker went bankrupt, with plans to remove the car’s plug-in hybrid powertrain and replace it with a V-8 from a Chevrolet Corvette that delivers 638 hp. Lutz has allied with the U.S. unit of Wanxiang Group of China, which purchased Fisker’s remaining assets out of bankruptcy restructuring this year.

Now the company has a potential production site: an assembly plant that GreenTech has been building in Tunica, Miss., 15 miles south of Memphis, Tenn.

“This merger will enable [GreenTech] to ramp up production of the Destino luxury sports sedan while strengthening its electric vehicle division,” industrialist Gilbert Villarreal, Lutz’s partner in the sports car venture, said in a statement Tuesday.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Villarreal will become COO of GreenTech, which is based in suburban Washington.

GreenTech, co-founded by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2009 during the former Democratic National Committee chairman’s hiatus from national politics, has developed a two-seat electric “neighborhood vehicle” called the MyCar. He left the company ahead of his 2013 gubernatorial bid.

Last year the Washington Post reported that GreenTech was under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over its use of the EB-5 visa program.

The program specifies that for every $500,000 invested in an economically distressed area, an investor can receive a green card allowing a foreign family to get permanent-resident status in the United States.

Like VL, GreenTech has ties to Chinese companies. It inked a deal in April 2013 with the Chinese state-owned automaker JAC Motors to develop an electric sedan for assembly in the United States.

Although the merger suggests that the Tunica production site could become an assembly site for the Destino, the newly merged company signaled that it has not given up on plans sell the MyCar.

Said Villarreal: “I truly believe in the production of the GTA MyCar as a practical, electric transportation solution and an affordable fleet vehicle.”

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com.


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