Ford, Nissan, Tesla Win Government Aid to Build Efficient Cars

Posted: Jun 24, 2009 10:13 a.m.

The AP reports, "A congressional official says the Energy Department is lending $5.9 billion to Ford Motor Co. and providing about $2.1 billion in loans to Nissan Motor Co. and Tesla Motors Inc. from a $25 billion fund to develop fuel-efficient vehicles." 

USA Today reports, "More U.S. jobs are a goal of the program, along with greener vehicles, said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. ‘These 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.'"

Kicking Tires explains, "The money is meant to help the automakers develop and produce cutting-edge green vehicles."  Ford plans to use the money to help "bring a battery-electric van to the market by 2010, a small electric sedan by 2011 and a plug-in electric vehicle by 2012."  Nissan, meanwhile, "will use its $1.6 billion loan to modify its manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tenn., to produce zero-emission electric cars and lithium-ion battery packs."  Nissan says it is on track to bring an electric vehicle to the U.S. by 2012, but has not released any specific information about the vehicle.

But California start-up Tesla Motors, according to Autoblog, is "arguably the biggest winner this round, as the $465 million it may receive will allow the fledgling EV maker to proceed with completing development and production of its Model S sedan."  The company has already accepted orders for its Model S, an all-electric luxury sedan with a target price around $50,000 - but faced questions about financing a facility to produce the vehicle. Now, since the government's program includes assistance to re-tool an existing auto plant to produce more efficient vehicles, "Tesla will probably look at acquiring a closed factory from another company."

If you're in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars as well as this month's best car deals.