An auto startup in Louisiana - What the heck?

V-Vehicles, founded by former Oracle executive and funded in part by T. Boone Pickens, will build cars at former headlight plant bringing jobs to small Louisiana town.

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By Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer

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NEW YORK ( -- A largely unknown car company is planning to open its first factory in what used be a headlight plant in a small town in northern Louisiana, state officials announced on Wednesday.

Louisiana economic development officials are enthusiastic about the endeavor which they say will create thousands of jobs. But for now, executives with California-based V-Vehicles, which has backing from activist billionaire T. Boone Pickens and the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, are not saying exactly what type of vehicle the company plans to build.

Pickens has been active in promoting natural gas for use in automobiles, but it isn't clear what form of energy will fuel these cars.

An auto industry startup. The company was founded in 2006 by former Oracle executive Frank Varasano who has spent 26 years working for the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton where he led the firm's engineering and manufacturing practice, according to the Louisiana economic development council's Website.

"He watched, we all watched, as the auto industry stumbled," said V-Vehicles spokesman Joe Fisher of V-Vehicles founder Verasano. "He thought he could do something to fix it."

Fisher said Varasano came up with a plan to build a profitable auto company and presented his plan to executives at Kleiner Perkins.

Fisher declined to say what was unique about V-Vehicles' business model, citing the competitive nature of the businesses.

Fisher also declined to provide details about the vehicle the company intends to produce at the site. A Website about the venture hosted by the Louisiana Economic Development council showed only a round headlight in one photo and, in other, one corner of a clay mock-up of a car.

Design of the cars is being led by former Mazda designer Tom Motano, who is credited with designing the Mazda MX-5 and RX-7 sports cars.

Big jobs boost for Louisiana. The plans were revealed in Louisiana, by the state's economic development council on Wednesday.

"Today, we are here to announce that through quick, aggressive action to pursue a transformative opportunity, we have a chance here in Louisiana to reenergize the entire U.S. auto industry," Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal said in a prepared statement.

V-Vehicles plans to retool the former Guide Corp. headlamp factory in Monroe, La., according to the announcement.

The plant will employ approximately 1,400 people and will create another 1,800 jobs outside the factory, according to the state. The project involves a capital investment of at least $248 million, according to the announcement

Full production of the vehicles is scheduled to begin in early 2011, Fisher said. To top of page

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