A European electric car company is setting up a North American base in Ohio. Ohio State University said Monaco’s Venturi Automobiles chose to locate in Columbus to be close to the university’s Center for Automotive Research.
The university said Venturi now employs 70 people in engineering and manufacturing in Monaco and France and is expected to eventually have a similar presence in central Ohio.
Last September the company opened its first factory near Le Mans, France, with an initial order for 1,500 electric vehicles. The North American branch will be headed by General Motors and Chrysler veteran John Pohill.
“We won’t invade the U.S. market right away, but we are ambitious,” said Venturi Automobiles President Gildo Pastor. “Our goal is to be a long-term business. … We want to establish a profitable business here.”
The company intends to design, engineer and manufacture electric vehicles with an initial focus on specialty markets. The offices will be at the TechColumbus building, and manufacturing space will be in the neighboring Science and Technology Campus Corp. facility.
Another maker of electric cars, Coda Automotive, hopes to open a battery factory in Columbus. The plan is contingent on receiving a federal loan of more than $500million. The Coda factory would employ more than 1,000 workers, making it one of the most closely watched development prospects in the state.
While local leaders have been waiting for months to learn the fate of Coda’s loan request, the Venturi announcement was unexpected.
Venturi will work out of an office suite at the TechColumbus building, 1275 Kinnear Rd., and plans to later rent manufacturing space at the adjacent Science and Technology Campus Corporation, or SciTech.
"We’re looking at starting out small but looking at being a major manufacturer of electric vehicles in the near future," said John Pohill, the newly hired CEO of the local office and an auto-industry veteran.
The local factory could make three-wheel vehicles for use by police departments along with electric motorcycles, delivery vans and battery-management systems, he said.
Venturi started in the 1980s, but it didn’t begin its focus on electric cars until 2001, when the current owner, Gildo Pastor, bought the company. Since then, Venturi has become known for eye-popping concept cars and urban delivery vehicles.
"They have really interesting designs," said John O’Dell, senior editor for Edmunds.com and editor of the site’s Green Car Advisor blog. "Some of them are crazier than hell."
But the company is more than an attention-seeker. "They’re a legit company," he said. "They’ve been around for a while."