It was supposed to happen in Texas, but things didn't pan out for Tiger Trucks in the Lone Star State. Oklahoma quickly swooped in and wooed the builder of trucks designed by China's ChangAn. In an era when manufacturing is increasingly migrating to China, Tiger is reversing that paradigm. Oklahoma put money and a rail spur on the table and that seems to have sealed the deal. Tiger's advance team is already in Poteau, OK, waiting for equipment to arrive so they can get to work setting up the plant.

Tiger Truck will build the Champ and the Leopard, two versions of the same platform. The Champ is a pickup with a full-size bed and a couple different cab configurations. The Leopard is a version of the Champ with a diesel engine and dual rear wheels that's road legal in the markets where it's headed. Most of the Poteau plant's output will head out of the US, though eventually there'll be a new medium duty truck that will be road legal worldwide. The best news out of the opening of Tiger Truck's new facility is that they're hiring. Tiger is looking to fill 100 positions with local workers immediately, eventually expanding to 300 people in three years time. Props to Tiger Truck for turning modern manufacturing practice totally on its ear.

Press release after the jump

[Source: Tiger Truck via Just-Auto]


PRESS RELEASE:

Tiger Truck to Open Assembly Plant in Oklahoma for Chinese Trucks

9 July 2007 – Poteau, OK – In a ceremony announcing a milestone agreement today, the owners of Tiger Truck, Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, State Senator Kenneth Corn, Poteau City Mayor Jeff Shockley and many other state and local officials, jointly announced the first Assembly Plant in the U.S. for vehicles designed by ChangAn Automobile Group, China's third largest vehicle manufacturer. Vehicles will be delivered from Poteau in early 2008 and will be "Made in U.S." Privately held Tiger Truck is the exclusive importer, distributor and now U.S. manufacturer for ChangAn, which in China has manufacturing agreements with Suzuki, Ford and Mazda.

Mike Ward, Founder and CEO of Tiger Truck, observed, "with increasing concerns for balance of trade matters and for sending jobs off shore, Tiger is particularly pleased to counter that trend by bringing jobs and business to the U.S. Our long-standing partnership with ChangAn has been exemplary and has led to a series of historic firsts. In our off-road vehicle class, Tiger has been first to build an automatic transmission, 4WD, limited slip differential, electric drive, hybrid drive, and now we will be first to deliver true 'Made in U.S.' vehicles with a Chinese heritage. Our strong dealer network and fast-growing number of users is loud testament to the quality of product delivered historically and our ability to control quality just increased manifold."

"Oklahoma state and local officials are to be commended for the speedy, professional and thorough manner in which you have responded to our needs", said Ward. "Circumstances beyond the control of most involved prevented us from completing an earlier announced plan. Oklahoma's very responsive and comprehensive efforts have permitted Tiger to maintain our original aggressive plan to be delivering US-made trucks in the first quarter of 2008".

Increasing importance for diminishing the dependence of the U.S. on foreign oil and the need for lower operating costs continues to make Tiger's vehicles more attractive all the time for off-highway use on locations such as: college campuses, golf courses, military bases, farms, nurseries, industrial sites, etc. Ward noted that, "Federal and other agencies are prudently being mandated to convert eligible conventional gas guzzlers to low speed vehicles (LSV) and off-road vehicles. We are helping fill that need."

Initially, nearly 80% of the trucks manufactured here will be for export. The Poteau facility will assemble two new truck platforms. The Champ, available in a 2-door or 4-door crew cab, is a full-size pickup truck with over 3,000 lb. capacity. It will be sold to the U.S. and Canadian off-road market. Another version of this platform for export only is called the Leopard and will be configured with a diesel engine, dual rear wheels, and other features that make it suitable for on-road use in those export markets. To follow mid-year is a second platform of medium duty trucks with GVW of 14,000 lbs., 17,000 lbs. and 21,000 lbs. These will be sold worldwide for on-road use, including in the U.S. This truck will be delivered with an EPA/C.A.R.B. certified diesel engine.

A glance at the map will show this site to be well-suited for distribution to all North American markets and it is located on a rail line with a direct route into Mexico, South America, and Gulf ports serving the Caribbean basin. This existing 112,000 square foot facility in the Poteau Industrial Park requires only modest up-fitting to be an efficient engineering and assembly facility complete with modern paint booth. There is ample expansion capacity to meet the needs of the foreseeable future.

The thoughtful design of the vehicles and the assembly floor layout make it easy to mix configurations on the line even to the extent of right-hand or left-hand drives. Ward said, "the additional efficiencies that we gain from this new facility will sustain Tiger's ability to continue delivering low-cost, high-value vehicles to all of our selected markets. Even though Henry Ford might have objected, our state-of-the-art paint line will now permit us to deliver a larger palette of finish colors from the factory."

According to Ward, "We already have equipment in transit to Poteau that will be met by our vanguard staff as they begin to establish operations in our new facility this month". Tiger will immediately begin hiring locally. "LeFlore County will see action in this neighborhood right away." Tiger plans to have 100 employees here in the first year of operation and will have the single-shift capacity of producing 7,500 vehicles per year. Further expectations are to be approaching 300 employees by the end of the third year of operations in Poteau.

Governor Henry noted: "Tiger's selection of Oklahoma for its assembly/manufacturing plant is a win-win for Oklahoma and Tiger Truck. Our state builds greatly on its role in international exporting, and Tiger benefits from an eager, skilled and dedicated workforce. All of Oklahoma celebrates this momentous first with Tiger, and we look forward to keeping its string of firsts continuing."

About Tiger Truck, LLC:

Tiger Truck has been delivering a series of multi-use trucks and vans for off-road use since 1999. All Tiger vehicles meet the stringent CARB/EPA standards and are available powered by gasoline, E85 or electric drive, and include standard shift or automatic transmissions and a 4WD option. Tiger has the largest available array of truck body options for niche applications. Primary distribution in the U.S. is through a select dealership network. Most vehicles are available under the Federal GSA Purchasing Schedule (Contract #GS-07F0260M). Tiger Truck is a privately-held international company, headquartered in Dallas, TX, with distribution outlets throughout the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean basin. See http://www.tigertruck.com.