Does Detroit Electric Have Any Real Chance of Success?
In 2008, a familiar face hit the automotive scene: Detroit Electric. A company that was defunct for nearly 70 years had risen from the grave, something similar to an episode of the Walking Dead, with plans for an all-new vehicle to coincide with the evolving market. But the history of Detroit Electric goes much deeper than some savvy investors with a pipe dream and nostalgic ideals. The original Detroit Electric was founded in 1907, and became one of the first car companies in the country—nay, the world, to develop a successful, mass-market electric vehicle. The company eventually went out of business in 1939 when big oil moved into town, but not without leaving a lasting impression. Now, the new owners hope to cash in on both the name and the electric sports car revolution currently happening in the auto industry. But can they? RELATED: See More of the SP:01 Electric Sports Car
This is what Detroit Electric came up with. Essentially an upgraded Lotus with a fancy battery and a technical name. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Similar to Tesla, Detroit Electric avoided many of the costs associated with building a car from the ground up by simply purchasing an existing vehicle from Lotus, and turning it into something better. That ‘better’ part remains to be seen.
The unique thing about this car is that, while very much a mean, green, earth-saving machine, it’s also enthusiast focused. It has a manual transmission, 280 horsepower, rear-wheel drive, and it’s relatively affordable at $135,000. Compare that price to a BMW i8 and get back to us.
The idea for a fun, relatively affordable electric sports car is there…but it’s not without its own set of issues.
RELATED: Detroit Electric Delivers Its First SP:01 Sports Car
When Detroit Electric was officially revived in 2008, the main focus was on bringing jobs back to Detroit. They sort of accomplished that (two big name execs were hired), but not in the way the company was hoping. A manufacturing facility was essentially out of the question, for reasons we’re not entirely sure. Maybe because the Lotus platform they were using wouldn't be a viable option for the U.S., or maybe city officials didn’t get enough cash in their own pockets. Whatever the case, it ended up being a bust.
Fast forward a few years, and Detroit Electric announces the move of its production facility to the UK. The name Detroit Electric would remain, but it would lose much of its luster considering it was absolutely in no way a product of Detroit, other than by name. The good news being that the Michigan setbacks didn’t kill their spirits, the bad news, of course, being the lack of American ties.
On October 29th of 2015, the company started production. And just a few days ago, it delivered its first vehicle to a customer in China. This is all good news—but where does the company go from here?
RELATED: See The Original Detroit Electric Model 75 From 1918
Developing a full-blown road car is (obviously) the hardest part. With that checked off of Detroit Electric’s list, the next logical step seems to be something more affordable. Again, if execs are following the Tesla format, a sedan or SUV would make sense. Or, the company could go in the opposite direction, something similar to an electric McLaren.
Granted, the SP:01 has to be a success for any of that to happen. Even if the company is graced with a large influx of cash out of nowhere, it has to prove that it’s a serious player in the electric industry. So far, it seems like it. But the real vision for Detroit Electric lies years in the future. We'll keep our hopes up...for now.