Electric car giant Tanfield pulls plug on US connection

TANFIELD'S link-up with motor giant Ford in the US has ended - because the Washington electric vehicle maker says "it didn’t stack up".

TANFIELD'S link-up with motor giant Ford in the US has ended - because the Washington electric vehicle maker says "it didn’t stack up".

Tanfield had teamed up with the US giant at the start of the year to develop an estate car-sized electric vehicle for the US Ford Transit Connect project. Ford is now pressing ahead with the project alone.

But the North East group – which is the world’s biggest electric commercial vehicle maker – said the market for smaller electric vehicles had become full very quickly, and attempting to compete in it was not the best use of its resources.

In a trading statement to the City, Tanfield said the forecast volumes did not justify the investment required and that would limit the money available to invest in its large Smith Newton electric truck.

A Tanfield spokesman said: “It’s getting very competitive very quickly. We see our work in the future in the larger vehicle sector.

“We have got to invest in the projects that we see will deliver the best return. For our money, it didn’t stack up. But we still have a relationship with Ford in Europe.”

Tanfield, which reported an £11m loss and a 68% drop in turnover to £29.9m in the six months to the end of June, is now focusing on the potentially lucrative development of larger electric vehicles for the US postal market.

Its US associate company Smith Electric Vehicles US Corp (SEV US Corp) is teaming up with Indiana-based military and commercial vehicle-maker AM General on the project.

The partnership is developing a prototype electric van for the US Postal Service, which currently uses 178,000 postal vans that travel, on average, less than 30 miles a day.

Tanfield chief executive Darren Kell said: “The goal is to deliver an electric vehicle that is perfect for the United States Postal Service – a vehicle that is energy efficient, cost-effective, reduces US reliance on oil and lowers greenhouse gas emissions.”

The group has already secured $10m from the US Government to ramp up production of electric commercial vehicles for the American market, and it is actively seeking further funding through “green vehicle” programmes available in the US. It currently has an order book for 255 Smith Newton electric trucks – which are being manufactured in Missouri – and is also aiming to secure an order for 50 Smith Edison electric vans with a top UK retailer.

It also has orders for 57 Edisons for the first phase of the British Government’s low-carbon vehicle procurement programme, and is the largest supplier to the initiative.

Earlier this year, Tanfield axed around 170 jobs and reduced workers’ hours to cut its costs by around 40% because of the recession.

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