CEO of GreenTech Automotive speaks out
Terry McAuliffe might be running for governor in Virginia, but Charles Wang, the CEO of GreenTech Automotive, still has a business to run. Three days after the New York Times newspaper published a front-page story on GreenTech, which McAuliffe headed as chairman until last December, Wang issued his own press statement.
Perhaps he wanted to clear the air after being interviewed for the Times article where he is quoted as saying that GreenTech’s ambitious, less than five-year timeline for building an electric car was influenced by McAuliffe’s desire to come across as a job creator in his campaign for governor. “Did Terry want to wait 10 years? ” Wang is quoted as saying in the article. “No, because he wanted to run for governor again.”
Republican opponents have panned McAuliffe’s image as a job creator and businessman, particularly since GreenTech’s assembly plant — once slated for Virginia — went out of state and hasn’t hired the thousands of workers McAuliffe originally envisioned. GreenTech remains front and center as an issue in the gubernatorial campaign, because the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating its handling of EB-5 visas for foreign nationals, one of the funding sources for the company.
While McAuliffe resigned as chairman, he remains the company’s largest shareholder, with a 25 percent stake. His association, says Wang, doesn’t mean the company isn’t moving forward on its mission to manufacture affordable electric cars.
“While a high-profile political figure is a GTA shareholder,” Wang says in a reference to McAuliffe, “the company is not political and has no direct interest in politics. As earnest businesspeople, we do not believe that politicizing the challenges a startup business faces or twisting facts is the American way of doing business. We are glad to share our story with neutral, unbiased members of the media, but we will also defend the company, its employees and its investors against malicious attacks based on fabrications and willful mischaracterizations.”
While the company isn’t as far along as it hoped to be, Wang makes clear in a statement carried by PR Newswire that GreenTech has experienced some momentum since its launch in 2009.
“All startups, especially those in a highly competitive, capital-intensive industry like electric vehicles, face unanticipated challenges, and we have certainly had our share,” Wang says. Then he enumerates what the company has achieved.
“In the past four years, we have completely redesigned and re-engineered a small electric vehicle, MyCar; we have earned the respect of a major Asian automotive OEM [original equipment manufacturer], which has entered into an agreement with us to jointly develop a four-door sedan using our advanced electric drivetrain; we established a fully functional assembly line in a 375,000-square-foot facility in Mississippi; and we have finished phase I construction of a permanent manufacturing home and proceeded to the phase II construction that will, we hope within the next six months, deliver a state-of-the-art assembly facility.”
So far, those efforts have created more than 80 manufacturing jobs in Tunica, Miss., he adds.
“We are proud that we have achieved all of these accomplishments without any federal subsidies or funding. We are grateful that the state of Mississippi has provided us a standard incentive package to help us establish our manufacturing base in Tunica. “
One of the ways GreenTech has raised funding is through a federally established immigration investment program known as EB-5, says Wang. It provides visas to foreigners who invest a minimum of $500,000 in ventures that create American jobs. In exchange, investors get a green card for themselves and their immediate family if the foreign capital creates or preserves at least 10 fulltime U.S. jobs within two years after the immigrant achieves conditional residency.
The New York Times story said GreenTech received more than 50 green cards worth $25 million in Chinese investments. McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a fundraiser for the Clintons, is accused of using his political connections to get a favorable ruling from federal officials on getting EB-5 visas for GreenTech.
In his statement, Wang says, “We are confident that we have strictly adhered to all statutory and regulatory requirements, and have always had open communications with our industry's regulators. “
He ends the statement with a salute to GreenTech's workers. “The hardworking men and women at GreenTech Automotive are proud of what we have achieved in four years, and we are committed to creating affordable, green, electric vehicles. We are confident that the judgment of the market we seek to serve will prove our strategy and our timing as prudent and effective.”