Bryan Hansel, CEO of Kansas City-based Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. Corp. (SEV), currently the exclusive North American licensee for British electric-truck OEM Smith Electric Vehicles, told FleetOwner that the U.S. firm is planning to increase its manufacturing and sales & service operations in the U.S. and Canada—and has made a bid to acquire the original UK company with an eye to expanding Smith globally.
As of now, SEV assembles and markets the Smith Newton Class 4-6 all-electric truck in the U.S. and Canada. The Newtons are plug-in battery-electric trucks powered by an Enova drive system and are capable of a 100-mile range before needing recharging. A media ride-and-drive yesterday on Manhattan’s Pier 54 showed off the first five of a planned purchase of 176 of the trucks by Frito Lay for route service in various U.S. and Canadian snack markets.
“We submitted an offer [in March] to purchase the UK Smith operation from its parent, Tanfield Group,” Hansel told FleetOwner. “We think the decentralized approach to manufacturing and selling vehicles [launched by SEV in the U.S.] will work globally; [the idea would be] to ‘localize’ the trucks for other countries.”
According to Hansel, the conditional offer issued in March to buy the Smith Electric Vehicles business based in the U.K. from Tanfield Group included the purchase of all Smith U.S. common stock currently held by Tanfield. “That agreement has now been revised,” he noted. “SEV will still purchase the assets of the Smith UK operating business, along with the license agreement by and between Tanfield and SEV and the intellectual property necessary to allow the combined businesses to operate globally. However, Tanfield is now expected to retain an interest in the combined entity and share in its future growth and opportunity.”
Hansel pointed out that his strategy of assembling trucks and selling and servicing them via a decentralized operation is being proved out in the U.S. market. “We’re committed to decentralized manufacturing and ‘localization’ of the product ,” he told FleetOwner. “Our first plant in Kansas City has is scaled for capacity to build 2,500 trucks a year—but we do not speculate on demand,” he added with a smile. (See Hansel give a walk around of the all-electric truck)
“Our plan is to have a [manufacturing] site in each major market [identified] and also handle sales as well as service and repair there so smaller fleets can get their trucks taken care of,” Hansel continued. “ That’s because you can’t take an electric truck down the street and ask a diesel mechanic to work on it.
“The next two markets we will build in are the East Coast and the West Coast,” he added, “and we are planning for up to 20 locations across the U.S.”
Hansel pointed out that in keeping with the “localization” strategy, under the current SEV assembly setup, some 80% of the trucks’ components are now U.S.-based, with the Smith cab being the primary imported piece.