A start-up automotive company focused on producing all eco-friendly vehicles will join top automakers such as Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai, International and Toyota in calling Alabama home.

Hybrid Kinetic “HK” Motors and Gov. Bob Riley publicized plans to build a new green-vehicle manufacturing plant in Baldwin County at a press conference last Thursday.

“It didn’t take long for Alabama to become a leader in the automotive industry,” Riley said in a press release. “Now as America and the world begin making a historic transition to a green economy, we look to make Alabama a leader in the production of next-generation, clean-tech automobiles.”

The company chose Alabama as its central manufacturing location because of its economy and quality workforce, according to the press release.

The plant is supposed to create more than 5,000 jobs.

HK Motors’ flagship engine is a 1.5-liter hybrid, which runs on gasoline, electricity and compressed natural gas, said Yung “Benjamin” Yueng, HK Motors chairman, in a press release.

“Our cutting edge multi-fuel hybrid power-train system delivers excellent performance while reducing CO2 emissions to exceed Euro-2012 and EPA guidelines,” Yueng said.

The plant location is ideal as Alabama is situated in the middle of one of the country’s largest and most abundant natural gas fields, said Frank Burt, Baldwin County Commissioner.

“We here in Alabama are really blessed with natural gas,” Burt said.

Many from the international community have contributed, Burt said.

Those working on the project include an Italian design team, as well as a engineering firm from Germany.

The majority of investors are from China, and there are others from India and Brazil.

Investors are attracted through the national governments EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa program. The program grants U.S. Permanent Residency (Green Cards) to non-citizens who invest in American businesses.

The requirement is an investment of $1 million or more in a business and the creation of full-time employment for at least 10 U.S. workers.

“China owns so much of our American dollars and credit,” Burt said. “It is a wonderful opportunity that a great number of those dollars would come back from China and be reinvested right here in Alabama and Baldwin County.”

Yeung and the HK Motors’ executive board have years of experience in and around the automotive industry.

“He’s done this before,” said Todd Stacy, press secretary for the governor’s office.

Stacy credited Yueng and his company with creating one of the largest automobile companies in China.

“We are aiming to become the premier hybrid vehicle producer in the U.S.,” said Colin Legerton, HK Motors public relations specialist.

HK Motors vehicles will focus on efficiency, safety and performance.

“It certainly is an exciting venture for Alabama and really for the whole automotive industry,” Stacey said.

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This article was originally published in The Auburn Plainsman on 10/8/2009.

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