Company With Aspirations to Make Police Cars Abandons Its Indiana Offices
The small town of Connersville, Ind., has closed the books on the Carbon Motors Corporation, an Indiana start-up that had moved to town in 2009 to manufacture and sell police vehicles, but was turned down last year for an Energy Department loan.
“I assume that they are done here,” Mayor Leonard Urban of Connersville said Wednesday morning in a telephone interview. He said the company’s lease with the town on a 1.8-million-square-foot building had expired on Sunday, and Carbon employees had packed up last month.
Carbon had leased office and factory space at the building that the Visteon Corporation had used to manufacture air-conditioning compressors for Ford and Lincoln. Carbon had asserted to have taken more than 20,000 orders for its E7 police cruiser, which would have a BMW 6-cylinder turbodiesel engine. The car was offered at a crucial moment when the Ford Motor Company was discontinuing the Crown Victoria.
Unlike that older police-vehicle platform, the E7 had futuristic styling, custom features and high performance that could appeal to police officers of the RoboCop-movie generation.
Carbon promised to create some 1,500 new manufacturing jobs in Connersville, which is about an hour east of Indianapolis.
“This town needs jobs,” Mr. Urban said. “We’ve lost 10,000 industrial jobs in the last 15 years.
“The town had an agreement with them that at the end of March, if they didn’t renew, the lease was up,” said Mr. Urban, who added that he had received only one message, an e-mail from Alan Bratt, Carbon’s manufacturing chief, thanking the mayor for his support.
“I understand that all the principals have left the company,” Mr. Urban added. Efforts by The New York Times to reach Carbon Motors executives by telephone and e-mail were unsuccessful. The company has shut down its Web site.
The company in March 2012 lost a crucial piece of financing it had sought from the Energy Department. After the agency denied a $310 million loan application under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, Carbon executives blamed politics.
“We are outraged by the actions of the D.O.E., and it is clear that this was a political decision in a highly charged, election-year environment,” William Santana Li, Carbon’s then chief executive, said in a statement issued after the decision.
Automotive executives and others also claimed that the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loans, which were earmarked for new, fuel-efficient vehicles, dried up amid the bankruptcy of Solyndra, the solar-panel maker. Bright Automotive, another Indiana start-up, closed after failing to receive an Energy Department loan.
“Suddenly, I think we got caught up in presidential politics,” Mr. Urban said. “They weren’t going to let another loan go bad before the presidential election.”
Carbon tried to raise addition money last year by unveiling the TX7 riot van, which was to cost about $150,000. The V-8 turbodiesel truck was to go into production this summer.
Mr. Urban says there has been strong interest in the abandoned site.
“There is a little upswing in manufacturing right now, and I think eventually it will be sold.”