Florida-based Avera Motors is beginning to part the veil of secrecy surrounding what the company has been up to for the past few years. The KGB is a downright chatty bunch compared to the start-up automaker, and until now, we've only had one very info-light web site and a handful of rumors to give us an idea of what to expect from Avera. We knew that CEO RJ Scaringe had assembled a team of engineers who had worked on projects like the Ford GT, Dodge Viper and Koenigsegg CCX and that the company was planning to build a new take on the efficient automobile, but beyond that, it was anyone's guess.
Now the company has released a teaser of its first operational prototype – a yet-unnamed, rear-wheel-drive hatch (?) powered by a direct-injection, turbocharged gasoline engine mounted amidships. Scaringe and the rest of the Avera Motors crew are hoping that the vehicle will be able to best every hybrid in the game in terms of fuel economy and driving fun simply by reducing weight as much as possible. We were able to spend a few quick minutes with Scaringe to find out a little more about the vehicle and his company as a whole. Hit the jump to see what we learned.
[Source: Avera Motors]
History hasn't exactly been kind to new comers in the automotive scene, but with his background in automotive engineering from MIT and the benefit of some very good timing, Scaringe believes Avera Motors is in a good position.
"If you look at the auto industry, there have been so few periods of time when it's been possible to really start [an automotive] company," Scaringe said. "Customers are asking for different products that aren't being offered."
Combine that pent up longing for fuel-efficient vehicles that are both stylish and fun to drive with a market that's flush with suppliers willing to make a deal to move product, and suddenly you've got the bones for the company's prototype. Avera Motors says that its first offering will cost somewhere around $25,000. Scaringe won't go so far as to come out and say exactly who Avera is working with in terms of components to keep costs down, but did say that one of the key principles behind the prototype is lean manufacturing – working at every level to increase value for the customer while decreasing waste.
"You look at the vehicle and the way we build vehicles, and it's a process that we've been using for quite some time," Scaringe said. "What we're doing here is basically rethinking the entire process so that you can dramatically reduce the amount of capital required."
Scaringe says that he and his engineers have redesigned the typical manufacturing facility to suit his company's needs and to keep the initial investment as low as possible. The theory is that doing so will allow Avera to produce a high-quality, low-buck vehicle.
Avera says that the prototype under the sheet will provide drivers with a quick 0-60 time, excellent handling and a five-star crash rating across the board. That aluminum space frame is a big part of that recipe, but Scaringe also says the engineers have examined the entire vehicle system to come up with ways to reduce weight and strip cost. How much will the thing weigh? Avera Motors is keeping that figure as well as the rest of the prototype's specifications to itself for now, though we're promised more information in the near future.
For now, Avera Motors has unveiled a new web site to promote its prototype. The company says that it will unleash a preproduction fleet in 2012 with full-scale production ramping up in early 2013. While it's easy to brush the company off as another element in the vaporsphere, Scaringe's infectious enthusiasm for his project and his decision to headquarter the company in the same community that used to employ a number of workers involved in the space shuttle program seem to hint that we may actually get behind the wheel of one of his company's products in the near future.