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ELECTRIC VAN MAKER ISSUES PLEA FOR HELP.

Byline: Les Reid

A COVENTRY motor company has hit financial difficulties and is calling for more support from the government and Coventry City Council.

The Telegraph has learned of "short term" losses at Modec, despite a recent multi-million pound grant from US President Barack Obama and international orders for its environmentally friendly electric vans. Chief executive Bill Gillespie insists "there are great prospects for the company", despite challenges in the motor industry in securing orders, obtaining credit and government support.

But he is calling on Business Secretary Lord Mandelson to do more to back low carbon manufacturing, saying Britain is trailing behind other countries including America, France, Spain, Holland and Denmark, which have all placed orders for Modec vans.

He is being backed by Coventry North west MP Labour Geoffrey Robinson, who is urging Coventry City Council to follow the lead of other local authorities - including the London boroughs of Camden and Islington - in placing orders with Modec.

European cities including Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and Amsterdam are already using Modec vans.

Mr Robinson is to have talks with Lord Mandelson's department about government support, which has so far included a pounds 4 million loan from the government development agency Advantage West Midlands.

Asked about financial difficulties at the three-year-old Binley-based firm, which employs 85 workers, Mr Gillespie said: "Starting any technological business is difficult at the best of times but trying to act in the worst recession for 60 years is especially challenging for a business like ours.

"We believe we can work through this, but 90 per cent of our orders are from abroad. Lord Mandelson was visiting the West Midlands yesterday announcing we're a low carbon area. We might be for the technology, but not for the use of that technology, and for cars rather than vans."

Mr Robinson has urged Conservative-run Coventry City Council to "pull its finger out", asking, "Where are your green credentials now?" He said: "Coventry has a proud history of car manufacturing and our council should be leading from the front and championing Modec."

Councillor Kevin Foster, the council's deputy leader, said an order for one Modec vehicle for delivering wheelie bins was in the pipeline, after short trials of a few days last year. He added: "Geoffrey Robinson should pull his finger out and get his facts straight."

But Mr Robinson said Camden and Islington had been using Modec vehicles for fleet and highways maintenance for up to 18 months. The Telegraph has learned of some concerns at the city council about the initial cost and practicality of Modec vehicles.

Modec Ltd secured a pounds 23m grant last year from the US government for its joint venture with American firm Navistar. US President Obama himself showcased the vehicles in announcing his support.

Navistar will build a factory in America making Modecs, with components from the Coventry and Warwickshire supply chain, and are ordering 100 vehicles made in Coventry.

Each Modec can run for 100 miles, at 50mph on a single overnight battery charge, and if used to replace a traditional diesel van, a Modec eliminates over nine tonnes of CO2 each year.

CAPTION(S):

SUPPORT US: Modec chief executive Bill Gillespie is calling on the government to do more to back low carbon manufacturing. Above, Barack Obama hails the vans
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 12, 2010
Words:548
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