Mid-South car company called into question - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mid-South car company called into question

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(WMC-TV) - For more than one year now, the Action News 5 Investigators have been asking questions about a new Mid-South car company called GreenTech Automotive and its promise of hundreds of new jobs in North Mississippi.

Now, a man who got one of those jobs says he was instructed to do more than put together cars. He says he was told to put on a show.

Taxpayers loaned the Greentech Automotive millions of dollars to land the manufacturer in North Mississippi, where the former chairman, now Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, promised the creation of hundreds of jobs and thousands of cars.

"If I can be successful and make 10,000 cars over the next 12 months here in Horn Lake and ship them over to Denmark, that's a huge win for me, the company, and most importantly, Mississippi," said McAuliffe in July 2012.

Twelve months later, the Action News 5 Investigators have uncovered no evidence of any major car production and a former Greentech employee raises new questions about the company's operation.

"We were told, you know, when we first went in the fall of '11, we were going to build a 100 by Christmas, didn't happen," said the former employee, who asked to remain anonymous. "Then we were told we were going to build X amount through the year 2012 and that didn't happen."

The employee says workers built cars then deconstructed and rebuilt them over and over again to appear as though they were working.

"We had had a couple of photo shoots to where they would take everybody and put them out on the line and we would stand over the car with tools in our hand and look like we were doing something to the car but we wasn't doing anything," the former employee explained. "Like I say, we were told that they depended on these foreign investors, the company depended on these investors coming in to finance the initiative that we were doing."

Action News 5's cameras were not allowed to film close, but we did see workers on what appeared to be a production line during an exclusive visit earlier this month. It was a tour arranged by Greentech after repeatedly denying our requests to get inside.

Plant manager Trey Agner showed us around.

"You have problems with them and that's why you do them. So each car you build is a little bit better than the last one," said Agner.

Both Agner and Greentech Vice President Marianne McInerney said workers break down and re-assemble the cars for training and quality control.

McInerney refused to release the number of vehicles actually made at the facility or sold last year because GTA is a private company. She would only say there are pending orders for the new 2014 My Car.

"Well we have distribution agreements that account for 30,000 vehicles over the next three years, that's pretty significant," she said.

Also significant are foreign investors, who can gain U.S. citizenship for large investments in U.S. companies through the government's EB 5 program.

The former employee says when investors toured the facility, employees acted as if they were working.

"When the Chinese investor comes in, we were placed on the station, at our assigned work stations, we start working on the cars as if we were producing cars then sending them out the door. It was all a -- an act put on for these investors to make them think that we were producing and actually doing work when, in fact, these cars had been built six months prior to and tore apart and put on the line," he said.

McInerney denies the former employee's claims that production at the facility was an act to impress investors. She said Greentech strictly follows EB 5 program regulations.

"Well the production line is active every day, and I can assure you that investors, with the exception of the July 6 of 2012, are not on site at our Horn Lake facility," said McInerney. "EB5 is one part, and it's an important part, of our strategy but not the only one."

She continued, "Our goal has always been with the state of Mississippi, that we would create 350 jobs by the end of 2014 and those are direct jobs."

McInerney says the company is one-third of the way there. Greentech plans to move to a facility in Tunica County next year.

What was just a gravel lot in June, now houses a trailer and workers to begin construction.

The former employee hopes the latest promises hold true.

"We were looking forward to producing these cars and making a name for ourselves and the whole concept behind the plant was to do something that had never been done," he said.

"This is a real company, it's a building company, we have set very aggressive goals for ourselves, but we will not meet anyone's arbitrary deadline for us," added McInerney.

Terry McAuliffe stepped down as Greentech chairman just four months after the company announced its plans last summer. He is running for governor in Virginia and is now only a shareholder with the company.

"I'm proud of what we've done," said McAuliffe. "I'm no longer involved in the management of the company and they are running it. I'm running for governor around the clock."

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