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Smith to expand US presence

Thursday 29 November 2012 5:21

An electric vehicles maker which originated in the North East is reportedly set to open a new factory in Chicago to supply 1,200 vehicles a year to the US market.

US firm Smith Electric Vehicles was founded in Gateshead 94 years ago and is 24% owned by its close associate, Wearside-based cherry-picker maker Tanfield.

The company, now based in Kansas, has an assembly factory in the North East which employs around 200 people and in July received a £2.2m bridging loan from Tanfield due to heavy losses it endured from the end of 2009.

However, according to reports in America, the company is now looking to build a new factory in Chicago and plans to hire 200 employees over three years to churn out 1,200 vehicles a year.

Chicago would be the third location in the United States for the company, whose trucks are used by the likes of Coca-Cola, Frito Lay and FedEx.

"We were looking for heavy density with the right population. New York is our first commitment and Chicago was an obvious second," Bryan Hansel, the company's CEO was quoted as saying.

The idea, said Hansel, is to convince its larger national customers to purchase and place electric vehicles in Chicago while continuing to build up a base of local and regional customers who would buy the trucks for their fleets.