SPOKANE — When Mullen Technologies announced plans to assemble the Qiantu K50 electric sports car on the West Plains near Spokane, it brought promise of more than 860 jobs within seven years.
Those plans — paired with the company’s ambitions to manufacture a midpremium SUV and lightweight, lithium-ion batteries — could bring what some see as a widespread economic impact to the Spokane area on par or greater than Amazon’s $181 million fulfillment center now under construction.
The California-based company signed a letter of intent with the West Plains Public Development Authority this spring that calls for the agency to build and lease 1.3 million square feet of assembly and manufacturing space for the Qiantu K50 as well as research and development facilities for lithium-ion batteries.
“The (Qiantu) K50 is front and center right now, but the true potential is the development of lithium battery technology,” said Todd Coleman, executive director of the West Plains PDA. “Spokane could become a leader in developing that technology. It could easily create 3,000 jobs or even more.”
The proposed facility on the West Plains could eventually expand to create an “energy business park” with potential for 10,000 jobs, some of which are engineering positions that pay upward of $100,000 a year, Coleman said.
Phase one of the development would call for a 500,000-square-foot facility for automobile manufacturing and research for the lithium-ion battery, which would be built by 2021. The second phase would include an 800,000-square-foot building for commercialization of the batteries. It would be completed two to three years later.
The West Plains PDA will build the manufacturing and assembly facility, provide rail access and lease the site to Mullen Technologies, which would be financed through a revenue bond that would be paid back through the lease agreement.
The PDA is working with Mullen Technologies to secure a temporary facility of more than 100,000 square feet for battery research, production, development and initial assembly of the sports car. The company anticipates moving into the temporary facility later this year.
Mullen Technologies was drawn to the West Plains because of its affordability and proximity to rail, CEO David Michery said:
“There’s a lot of really good companies that come out of Washington and, specifically, Spokane. We consider it to be a good midpoint for us to get product to the Midwest and South. Strategically, it would work for us, and the municipality was willing to bring us there and support us.”
The Qiantu K50 is expected to launch in the U.S. in 2020 under a partnership with China-based Qiantu Motor, which would ship vehicle parts to the United States. Mullen Technologies would then assemble the cars in Spokane.
The Qiantu K50 was unveiled in April at the International Auto Show in New York.
The high-performance sports car, powered by a lithium-ion battery, is capable of reaching 60 mph in under 4.2 seconds and has a range of 250 miles. It features an aluminum frame and aerodynamic carbon fiber design, with high-quality leather sports seats, an LED lighting system, in-car solar energy air circulation system, 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, six color options, a suite of safety technologies and three driving modes: adaptive, sport and boost.
The starting price for the electric vehicle will be about $125,000, according to the Mullen Technologies website.
Privately held Mullen Technologies owns several businesses, including Mullen Auto Sales, a series of dealerships in California, and CarHub, a digital platform for buying and selling cars.
The company is planning an initial public offering in this year’s third quarter. Its anticipated valuation is $500 million, according to preliminary filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Michery purchased Mullen Motors in 2012 from Arthur Allen. Prior to purchasing the business, he had a successful music career of close to three decades as owner and executive of several music labels, including American Music Corp.
Michery, who describes himself as a car aficionado, says his vision for Mullen Technologies is fueled by a passion for cars and the environment, adding he wants to find innovative, holistic solutions to the clean-air problem.