If you've never heard of the V-Vehicle Company of San Diego, California, you are not alone. But if a bold plan backed by billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens and a group of venture capitalists headed by Ray Lane and John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers and Louisiana businessman James Davison comes off as planned, it could become one of the hottest players in the "new" auto game. The V-Vehicle brief calls for a new "high quality, environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient car for the U.S. market," that will be built at a former Delphi Lighting facility in Monroe, Louisiana. To create this potentially game-changing vehicle -- which is rumored to be a minicar powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) -- Pickens and Co have retained the services of former Mazda design chief Tom Matano. The 61-year old Matano, whose Miata design was recently recognized by BusinessWeek as the most iconic vehicle of the last 25 years, says he's focused on elevating his new project to a similar status. "Miata was recognized as the iconic car of the last 25 years; this will be the iconic car of the next 25."
The V-Vehicle-to-be plant is set to begin a major makeover that will expand it from 425,000 to approximately 750,000 square feet. About 1,400 new jobs are expected to be created once it does go online. Although no firm launch date for the vehicle was announced, the principals anticipate seeing the first production models come off the line within 18 months. Before selecting Monroe, the investors evaluated nearly 400 sites in 10 states, using criteria that focused on quality of the labor pool, availability of customized workforce training programs, characteristics of available sites and facilities, business taxes, electricity costs and financial incentives.