By Mark Boatman, New Mobility Magazine, June 2013
Despite a backlog of 2,500 orders, the Vehicle Production Group quietly halted production of the MV-1 back in October and laid off its 100 employees, including CEO John Walsh. This move was in response to the Department of Energy freezing the company’s assets after determining it could no longer meet minimum finance requirements that were a condition for a $50 million loan from the DOE.
"I believe the loan was a good use of taxpayer money because VPG was building an American-made wheelchair accessible van that could run on domestic compressed natural gas,” says Walsh. “I am disappointed the DOE stepped in when they knew we had many orders to build.” Walsh told USA Today that the company ran into trouble because it didn’t have enough cash, and also it did not have the necessary dealer network. Still, Walsh says the company hasn't gone out of business or filed for bankruptcy. He's confident VPG will be purchased soon because of high demand for its vehicle, but declined to name any potential buyers.
VPG’s loan from the DOE was part of the same clean-energy program that funded Solyndra, another company that ceased operations after receiving large amounts of money from the government. VPG was eligible for the loan since some of its vehicles were powered by natural gas. In addition to the DOE loan, the company also raised $400 million from investors, including T. Boone Pickens.
Customers who’ve purchased MV-1s can still get parts and service. Walsh says customers needing support should contact AM General, which has always handled customer service for the MV-1 (www.amgeneral.com/support/supply-chain/commercial-mv1.php). Also, the 120 VPG dealers around the country are in business and can assist customers.