HORN LAKE — GreenTech Automotive Plant Manager Trey Agner has just a few photos on his office wall, located inside an old elevator manufacturing plant in Horn Lake, now home to more than 80 workers.
Among the family photos and framed pictures of the "cute" electric vehicles as he calls them, is a prominent photo of former President Bill Clinton who appeared with Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the all-electric car company's board of directors, during a 2012 appearance at the plant.
McAuliffe stepped down last December as chairman but still retains stock and interests in the Horn Lake car manufacturer, according to a story in the Washington Post.
Plans are moving ahead with construction of a 300,000 square-foot manufacturing plant just over the DeSoto County line in Tunica County.
Virginia politics aside, Agner said as plant manager his sole focus is on building cars.
Agner has been with the car company since its beginning, two years ago. He is unabashedly loyal to its immediate mission, which he said is to produce affordable all-electric vehicles for low speed environments such as college campuses, retirement communities and places in Europe and the Middle East, which have already become the car company's biggest customers, according to Agner.
In a wide-ranging interview, a few subjects were off limits, such as the number of vehicles the company has produced or is presently producing.
"We typically don't give out production numbers," Agner said, giving that same answer on a number of occasions when asked by a reporter.
Much of the mystery around the car company is due to closely-guarded production information.
Agner said the negative publicity is mostly due to "the political stuff," as he calls it.
Agner said he wanted to focus on the positive buzz the car company is generating.
"We're on the edge of technology," Agner said. "A lot of people are talking about it."
Agner is a devoted fan of the company. He was present when CEO Charles Wang introduced the MyCar to the public during its unveiling in Tunica.
"I really believe in what we're doing," Agner said. "We're not putting out a toy, radio-controlled car. I definitely want quality."
Agner said GreenTech designs and builds the all-electric cars from the "ground level up."
The light weight vehicles are designed for low speeds and are not designed for high speeds — yet. "The lighter the car, the more range you will get."
Agner said the small compact car will beef up to larger sizes down the line.
Aluminum and other metal alloys are used in its manufacture, according to Agner. The top speed of the car is between 25 and 35 miles per hour.
"The car will bigger and heavier," Agner promises of later models. "They will get faster and better. They will go farther."
The lithium ion battery system makes the cars more reliable than traditional electric vehicles which go much slower.
Presently, the range of the MyCar is between 100-115 miles for each charge.
"We're a fully functional car," Agner said. "We have air conditioners, heaters and radios. Seat belts."
Agner said the cars are crash tested to ensure safety.
For the first time in a media interview, Agner disclosed the company plans to manufacture more than 30,000 cars a year, beginning in 2014, when Agner said he anticipates the company moving into its Tunica plant.
So far, GreenTech Automotive is running one shift from 7 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. each day. Of the 80 workers, Agner said there are between 55 to 60 in the plant working on the cars daily.
"All of the cars are manufactured here in Horn Lake," Agner said. "There is talk of a plant in China. I'm not aware of what those plans are."
As demand grows, Agner said the number of shifts will increase. Between 300 and 350 workers will eventually be needed.
There are critics of the car company, mostly because it does not make its production information public.
Horn Lake is not Detroit, which has more than 100 years in its car making lineage.
The workers are non-union, which Agner concedes probably rankles some rank-and-file union workers in the automotive industry elsewhere. The car company is privately held. There are no immediate plans to take it public.
Other critics have tried to say the car company is just a "paper tiger" with no real plans to mass produce the vehicles.
Agner dismisses such talk out-of-hand.
"We're not a paper tiger," Agner said, adding it's difficult to build a car company in present economic times. "We're not here trying to put on a show."
Agner said a four-door sedan which can seat five people is in future production plans.
Denmark was said to have been a major purchaser but Agner will not disclose how many vehicles were shipped to that country.
The 2014 prototype is in production, according to Agner.
However, Agner said the MyCar is for sale right now.
"As many people who want to come in and buy a car," Agner said.
He hastened to say that the MyCar "isn't for everybody."
"Maybe a first car for a college campus," Agner said of a potential buyer.
Agner said he wants to get the message out that Greentech Automotive is here to stay and that the MyCar is going to be the car of the future.
"My goal is to get the MyCar on a positive path," Agner said.
Robert Lee Long: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252