Carbon Motors, the anti carmaker

April 6, 2010
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There’s something refreshing about Carbon Motors, the company that plans to make police cars in Connersville.

The founders, a cop who thought there had to be a better mouse trap and a former Ford executive who brings corporate and manufacturing experience, are charging straight into a market dominated by diminished but still-significant companies. Chrysler, Ford and General Motors still offer police vehicles.

Carbon Motors’ prototype is loaded with technology. Just one feature is its ability to automatically snap pictures of license plates and run the numbers against a national database of cars tied to everything from amber alerts to unpaid parking tickets. For the officer wanting to troll a mall or rock concert, the car will read a whopping 1,500 plates a minute. And yes, it will recognize your Riley Hospital for Children tag—along with every other specialty plate in the nation.

The company is doing manufacturing differently, too. It isn’t setting up a big assembly line that begs to be fed or shut down. Instead, it will add capacity in modules as the market warms. The market for police cars isn’t tiny, like it is for luxury marques like Maserati, nor is it on the massive scale of a popular model like the Toyota Camry, which forces Carbon Motors into something of a no man's land.

Carbon Motors is still young and tiny, so its future is up in the air. Production won’t start for at least a couple of years and is dependent on landing a $300 million federal loan.

There’s plenty of enthusiasm for the company, though. The job fair Carbon Motors held Monday attracted a couple of thousand people seeking 1,550 positions. The positions were for production, but also for finance, marketing and other headquarters posts. After all, Carbon Motors moved from its Atlanta home office to Connersville last summer.

What are your thoughts about Carbon Motors? Will the company and its grand experiment with police cars fly? Any reports from the job fair?


  • Give us a break.
    If Carbon Motors is such a great investment than the private sector would fund it.

    This empty shell company was created by Ford/Visteon to help wind down former operations. It is very likely being used as a ploy to get the city to take over the property and be responsible for millions in environmental clean up costs and give hope to thousands of laid off workers as they quietly eliminate all retiree benefits such as health/life insurance and attempted to cut pensions.

    Carbon Motors CEO has even indicated it would take them four years to manufacture a car if they got funding today.

    I suspect it will fold after another year of promises leaving taxpayers and former employees holding all the costs with no benefits.
    • Conspiracy Theory?
      Why do you think it will fail, Nick? Private sector funding can be a challenge in any case, but for a company that wants to build police cars, compete in a crowded market with the likes of GM & Ford, with a $300M+ price tag? Nobody in their right mind would fund such a venture privately.

      Your conspiracy theory doesn't make sense. Winding down operations? The plant closed some time ago. And Visteon would have never been fully responsible for any cleanup at any rate; they would have made it the responsiblity of a prospective buyer who would have pushed for federal brown field grants.

      I think their success lies in one very simple equation. They are entering a market who's consumer is controlled by labor (ie...the FOP). It's not unlikely to think that if these guys go get up and running and put out something other than junk, the use of these cars becomes part of a contract negotiation in the near future. That's unfortunate, but certainly possible.
    • Give us a break part 2
      "Nobody in their right mind would fund such a venture privately. "

      VC guys are experts at assessing viability of a business plan. If they conclude as you say above (and clearly they have), then why should my tax dollars fund it?

      If this wasnt a siphoning of tax dollars into Indiana, would Norm Heikens possibly take this same view?

      Arent Lugar and Pense the ultimate hypocrites. Railing against socialism and government spending. Yet somehow find themselves in favor of using tax dollars to enable this company to compete with private enterprise?

      This would be amusing, if it wasnt so sad.

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