SF Motors Opens US Offices Guided By Tesla Co-Founder

Chinese vehicle manufacturer Sokon has started a U.S.-based electric car brand, SF Motors, with offices in Santa Clara, Calif., and Ann Arbor, Mich.

Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard will play a role in launching the U.S. brand SF Motors, which will build and sell its own electric cars.

The company last year acquired electric drive system maker AC Propulsion, along with two other electric drive companies. At that time, Eberhard signed a two-year contract with Sokon to help the company launch its U.S. brand.

Sokon is a maker of small utility trucks, vans, and buses with combustion engines. It’s part of Chinese parent company Chongqing Sokon Industry Group Co. It has market capitalization of 15.88 billion yuan ($2.3 billion).

SF Motors has its headquarters in Silicon Valley and a development facility in Michigan, and autonomous vehicles seems to be part of its future. The startup has been hiring talent, with open positions including Supply Chain Manager and Director of Autonomous Driving.

While facilities are now open, Sokon said it will officially launch the SF Motors brand “in the coming months.” No information has been released on what types of electric cars will be coming to the U.S. market – and whether that will include the parent company’s utility vehicles.

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In February, Chongqing Sokon Industry Group Co. was one of 10 startups that received production permits from the Chinese government to build plug-in electrified vehicles. Eberhard was named as an advisor to the company in the filing

Eberhard had been one of three Tesla founders who had brought in Elon Musk as the company’s first investor. He was later fired by CEO Musk as the company went through a shakeup and changeover from its initial business model.

Ian Wright, another co-founder, had left Tesla already. In 2011, he started Wrightspeed, a manufacturer of aftermarket microturbine-powered plug-in hybrid powertrains.