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Electric vehicle company puts Indiana factory plans on hold

Posted at 2:22 PM, Jul 12, 2019

MISHAWAKA, Ind. (AP) — An electric vehicle startup has halted plans to start production at a northern Indiana factory where it aimed to employ more than 450 workers.

The subsidiary of Chinese automaker Sokon had announced its plans last year for spending $160 million to buy and retool the former AM General commercial assembly plant in Mishawaka. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb attended the May 2018 announcement event, saying he was "thrilled" by the company's decision.

But the South Bend Tribune reports Seres Automotive CEO James Taylor wrote in a Wednesday letter to employees that development of its new electric SUV for the U.S. market "is on hold." Taylor said the company's focus is changing because of a struggling Chinese auto market and ongoing trade conflict and tariffs on Chinese-made products.

It wasn't immediately clear what the decision means for the 85 workers now at the Mishawaka plant. The company had planned to conduct trial runs for the new vehicle by the end of 2018 and have it on American roads by the end of this year.

Scott Rivers, unit chairman for United Auto Workers Local 5, said "At this point in time, I'll let the company make an announcement."

AM General in 2017 closed the factory where it previously built Mercedes-Benz vehicles for Chinese buyers and the Hummer H2.

Seres Automotive was slated to receive $4.3 million in state tax credits or training grants as incentives for the project, but those were dependent on the company fulfilling its hiring plans.

Indiana Economic Development Corp. spokeswoman Abby Gras said the state agency has "received no indication from the company that their commitment to Indiana has changed or that their presence in Mishawaka is in jeopardy."