By Nick Aziz
Tuesday, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 12:24 pm
 
The Obama administration on Tuesday announced Ford, Nissan, and Tesla have been approved to receive loans under the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. The news is particularly important for Tesla, because the loan will enable the startup to begin construction of an assembly plant for its Model S electric sedan and it also marks the first time Ford has taken federal funding, albeit not under the same circumstances as the Chrysler and GM bailouts.



Tesla was awarded $465 million in loans, which is actually more than the $300 million it claims to need. Meanwhile, Ford will receive $5.9 billion to retool factories in five states to produce 13 high-efficiency models, including electric cars. Nissan will get $1.6 billion to build a new U.S. battery plant and overhaul its Smyrna, Tennessee, plant to build electric vehicles.

The loan program, funded by Congress in 2008, totals $25 billion. There are a number of other applicants -- mostly battery makers and related suppliers -- also vying for slices of the pie. Tuesday's announcement represents the first allocation of funds from the program.

"We have an historic opportunity to help ensure that the next generation of fuel-efficient cars and trucks are made in America," President Barack Obama said in a statement.

"These loans -- and the additional support we will provide through the Section 136 program -- will create good jobs and help the auto industry to meet and even exceed the tough fuel economy standards we've set, while helping us to regain our competitive edge in the world market."

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the loan program is important to help "jumpstart the production of fuel efficient vehicles in America." He went on to say the investments "will come back to our country many times over -- by creating new jobs, reducing our dependence on oil, and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions."

Ford's share
Ford says it will use the $5.9 billion in funding to help upgrade more than a dozen of its models, including the Focus, Escape, Taurus and F-150, though it hasn't said in what ways it will modify existing models or create future efficiency-oriented variants. Though the loans do not help ensure Ford's survival, they are significant as this is the first time Ford has accepted such substantial federal funding.

"This really gives us a gift of hope," Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm told the Detroit Free Press.

The loans will help Ford convert nearly 35,000 positions into so-called "green jobs." Nissan says its loan will eventually result in 1,300 new positions at the Smyrna facility, while Tesla indicates 1,000 new jobs will be created with the Model S facility, which is intended to build 20,000 vehicles per year by 2013.