China-owned electric car start-up buys old Humvee manufacturing plant in Indiana

Martin Eberhard, a co-founder of Tesla Motors, poses next to an electric motor in 2006. Eberhard is chief innovation officer and chief scientist of SF Motors, a China-owned start-up that bought a former Humvee plant in Indiana.
(Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

SF Motors, a Chinese-owned, Silicon Valley-based electric car start-up, just bought a U.S. manufacturing plant. It’s an old AM General factory in Indiana that once built Humvees.

SF Motors is the latest in a string of start-ups looking to enter the high-end electric car market with technology-loaded luxury vehicles that feature autonomous driving capabilities.

Right now, the market barely exists. The only company that’s selling such cars is Tesla, with its Models S and X. But California start-ups such as Lucid Motors of Menlo Park and Faraday Future of Gardena are planning to introduce their own versions over the next several years. So too are traditional automakers such as Jaguar, Porsche and Audi.


SF Motors, headquartered in Santa Clara, is owned by the Sokon Industry Group of Chongqing, China. The new company is perhaps most famous for its chief innovation officer and chief scientist, Martin Eberhard, who co-founded Tesla before he was ousted in 2008.

Last month, SF Motors bought Eberhard’s battery and electric drivetrain start-up, InEVit. Eberhard joined SF Motors months after its January 2016 founding as a strategic advisor.

The now idle AM General plant — located in Mishawaka, Ind., about 100 miles from Chicago — has built a wide variety of heavy-duty vehicles, including the Humvee, a military transport vehicle that was commercialized and sold by General Motors until the Great Recession of the late 2000s. SF Motors said reopening the plant would create 430 manufacturing jobs.

SF Motors also plans to build cars in Beijing, with research and development locations in China, Germany, Japan and Ann Arbor, Mich.

Few details are available about the vehicles the company plans to build, not even sketches or pictures of concept cars.


Twitter: @russ1mitchell