But it does have an unexpected rival. This summer, Yang's project split in two after a falling out between him and the man he had appointed to manage it: his former attorney and Chinese entrepreneur Xiaolin Wang.
Yang — listed in court documents as Benjamin Yeung, the name he uses in the United States — sued Xiaolin Wang and three other project managers. Yang alleges that the other managers had been steering control of the venture away from Yang and had begun operating under a different but similar name.
Yang's venture is called Hybrid Kinetic Automotive Holdings Ltd. Xiaolin Wang and the others had been operating as Hybrid Kinetic Automotive Corp.
"They were stealing the company from Mr. Yeung," spokesman Vincent Wang said.
In July, an out-of-court settlement required Xiaolin Wang to change the name of his operating entity. It now is known as GreenTree Automotive, said Bill Brabec, a Jackson, Miss., attorney for Xiaolin Wang.
Both projects say they are moving forward independently and soliciting investors through the EB-5 visa program. The original factory site is about 20 miles south of Memphis in economically distressed Tunica County, Miss.Yang's group now says it may go elsewhere.
Before the split, the Chinese project had earned the tentative support of Mississippi state officials. Melissa Medley, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Development Authority, which typically works with new industrial ventures there, would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the project.
But court documents from the Yang-Wang lawsuit contain a Sept. 30 letter to Xiaolin Wang from the authority's executive director, Gray Swoope. In it, Swoope pledges that the economic development group will seek state incentives for the project, including road construction, worker training funds and tax abatements.
Brabec said a formal announcement for Xiaolin Wang's project could come any day now. Vincent Wang said Yang's group hopes to announce its plans in early September.