Chinese-owned auto firm plans facility in Washtenaw

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Chinese-owned electric vehicle manufacturer SF Motors, Inc. will open a $10.7-million research and development facility in Washtenaw County, which is expected to create 150 jobs.

The news comes as Gov. Rick Snyder enters the final days of his investment mission to China.

“The decision by SF Motors to locate its U.S. engineering R&D facility in Michigan is good news that demonstrates how leading-edge, global companies are looking to Michigan to expand and create more and better jobs,” Snyder said in a news release. “Michigan is leading the world in automotive technology, research and development. And with a greatly improved business climate, Michigan is the smart location to grow a technology business and create high-tech manufacturing jobs.”

SF Motors is a subsidiary of Sokon Industry Group, an auto manufacturer and supplier, and one of the top 500 private companies in China. SF Motors launched in January 2016. The company is headquartered near San Francisco. The new research-and-development facility is to be built in Pittsfield Township. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. awarded the project a $1 million grant.

“Despite the transformation of the automotive industry in the world, Michigan remains the global center for automotive research and development,” Xinghai Zhang, chairman of Sokon Industry Group, said in a news release. “The establishment of our engineering R&D center in Michigan is an integral part of our global business strategy.”

Ann Arbor SPARK, the city’s economic development engine, worked with Pittsfield Township to recruit SF Motors to the state.

“Ann Arbor attracts global attention from companies like SF Motors because it’s one of the few places in the world that has a confluence of mobility innovation and talent,” said Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK, in a news release.

Snyder left for the “investment mission” on Nov. 10 and will return Saturday. It is his sixth business trip to China.

In 2011, Snyder took his first mission to Asia. Since then, Michigan has received nearly $650 million in new business investment from China from automotive companies. Among these investments are a new manufacturing facility in Cadillac from Zhongding, a subsidiary of Anhui Zhongding Sealing Parts, and new U.S. headquarters for CW Bearing, a subsidiary of Ningbo, China-based Cixing Group Co. Ltd., in Northville Township.

The governor or Lt. Gov. Brian Calley also has visited Japan, South Korea, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Chile, Colombia, Switzerland, Ireland and Great Britain on similar missions.

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Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau