Efficient Engine Maker EcoMotors Buys A U.S. Factory

On the heels of a $200 million joint venture agreement with First Auto Works to build a factory in China, the motor technology developer EcoMotors has acquired manufacturing capacity in the U.S.

On Wednesday the company announced the acquisition of Katech, a specialty manufacturer for the design, research and development, prototyping, testing and construction of engines and engine technologies.

A 42 minute drive separates EcoMotors’ Allen Park, Mich. headquarters from the Katech facility in Clinton Township, Mich., which is a much shorter trip for executives than the 17 hour flight to get to the U.S.-based technology developer’s partner facilities in Shanxi, China.

With the acquisition, EcoMotors is looking to consolidate what had been a distributed manufacturing process. The company had worked with several manufacturers around the U.S. in what Tony Mannarino, the former engine build manager of EcoMotors and new chief executive officer at Katech.

“We weren’t going to be able to achieve the efficiency that we wanted, so we decided to get into manufacturing,” Mannarino said.

Buying in to a prototyping and small run manufacturing facility allows the company to build and test quickly, while having its joint venture partners in FAW and Zhongding Holding do the heavy lifting and construction at scale, according to Khosla Ventures partner Andrew Chung.

“Injecting a Silicon Valley startup mindset into a traditional manufacturing business has been critical to delivering a transformative engine technology in a three-to-five year period instead of the decades-long timeframe automotive companies work on,” Chung said.

EcoMotors, backed by Khosla Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures and Bill Gates, is developing an opposed-piston opposed-cylinder engine. These lighter, more efficient engines used 50% fewer components and can be installed in both vehicles and machines. The company was founded by Professor Peter Hofbauer, a former Volkswagen engineer who invented the OPOC technology.

The Katech acquisition won’t have any effect on that company’s existing business, according to Mannarino and will actually give EcoMotors another point of contact with car manufacturers like General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, who had previously contracted with Katech.

Photo via Flickr user 123 Chroma Pixels