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Basch Report
Jax Daily Record Friday, May 6, 202205:00 AM EST

Cenntro expanding scope of vehicle plant in Jacksonville

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It will add battery packing to its electric vehicle assembly.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

Cenntro Electric Group Ltd. hasn’t begun assembling electric vehicles in its Jacksonville plant, but it already is expanding the scope of the facility as it deals with supply chain issues.

“We’re going to continue to develop a supply chain source in our local markets,” CEO Peter Wang said in an April 25 conference call with analysts.

“That means, in the near future, we are going to pack our battery in Jacksonville, in our own facility,” he said.

Cenntro makes light and medium-duty electric vehicles for corporate and governmental uses.

The New Jersey-based company said in December it would open its first U.S. assembly plant for the vehicles in Jacksonville, with the help of $450,000 in tax incentives approved by City Council.

Two weeks later, Cenntro became public by merging with an existing public company. 

In its first financial report since going public, the company said it sold 918 vehicles and produced revenue of $8.6 million in 2021.

The company has ambitious growth plans, including the opening of its Jacksonville plant.

According to its annual report, Cenntro signed a 10-year lease for about 100,000 square feet at the Lane Industrial Park on Jacksonville’s Westside.

The report said the company expects to begin “trial assembling operations” at the plant by the end of the second quarter and projects eventually to produce at least 10,000 vehicles a year there.

During the conference call, Wang expressed optimism about the company’s growth but said the global supply chain is a concern.

“As demand for our vehicle remains very strong, our priority is to overcome the challenges of the supply chain crisis, ramping up the production to expand our market share,” he said.

“The chip supply and the battery is our main issue, and also the shipping and the internal lockdown because most of our current supply chain is made in China.”

According to its annual report, its solution to the problem is a “merge in transit” model in which components of batteries and other parts are shipped to local facilities for assembly.

“As our Jacksonville facility is operational, we are going to pack our batteries in the United States,” Wang said.

CSX employee withdraws from board election

The CSX Corp. employee who had been seeking a seat on the Jacksonville-based company’s board of directors withdrew his nomination.

According to a May 2 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Chris Larson terminated his solicitation of proxy votes after losing his internet access.

“Preparing for the proxy contest required learning, understanding, and complying with the regulatory requirements surrounding the solicitation of proxies. It also meant developing the technical skills required to facilitate filings through EDGAR. The learning curve on the proxy contest lasted longer than planned,” the filing said.

“On the morning of April 27, the Filer lost access to the internet due to ISP issues. Upon learning the connection would not be repaired for several days, the Filer made the decision to Terminate the Solicitation in Opposition,” it said.

Larson, from Ferrysburg, Michigan, said in previous proxy filings he is an employee and conductor for CSX Transportation.

He was seeking to unseat Vice Chairman Paul Hilal on the 11-member board at CSX’s May 4 annual meeting.

Frontier Airlines: Jacksonville center affected results

As the parent company of Frontier Airlines reported a first-quarter loss, it cited staffing shortages at the Jacksonville Air Traffic Control Center as one factor affecting its results.

However, the Federal Aviation Administration said bad weather has been the biggest issue affecting the region this year.

Frontier Group Holdings Inc., which reported an adjusted first-quarter net loss of $109 million, did say in an April 28 news release it was impacted by “severe weather patterns during March across parts of Florida where a high concentration of flights were operated.”

However, it said that was exacerbated by staffing issues at the Jacksonville center, which actually is located in Hilliard.

The Jacksonville center is responsible for air traffic in a region from just north of Orlando to about Wilmington, North Carolina, and west to near Mobile, Alabama.

In response to a question about the Jacksonville center, the FAA media relations department sent a statement that did not mention staffing but cited several factors affecting air traffic, including more frequent thunderstorms.

It said the number of weather delays in the area has been about six times higher than average this year.

Meanwhile, activity at Florida airports has rebounded since the coronavirus began, with flights at Jacksonville International Airport at 116% of pre-pandemic levels.

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