Speaking to a group of like-minded people on the eve of this year's SEMA show (www.sema.org), Paul Wilbur, president and CEO of ASC Inc. (www.ascglobal.com; Southgate, MI), announced, "From this point on, ASC is pro-life for cool cars." That statement, given the time and place, is analogous to coming out in favor of apple pie at a Pillsbury Bake-Off held in Washington, DC, on the Fourth of July.
Wilbur explained that while there are typically an array of outstanding and appealing concept cars (a.k.a., "cool cars") shown by the major OEMs, more often than not these cars and trucks experience an ignominious disappearance as they do the show circuit before being inventoried (or worse). A reason this is the case is because the nature of major OEMs is that they're ordinarily interested in volume, not variety. And concept cars are niche vehicles almost by nature, and niches are places the majors visit all too infrequently.
So ASC is intending to build a plant in North America-the site is to be selected in '06-that is dedicated to niche vehicle production for OEM customers. Wilbur said the plant will be about 500,000- to 600,000-ft2 and will employ from 450 to 800 people. Based on two shifts, Wilbur reckons the annual volume will be 50,000 units. Of that number the plan would be to make five or more different vehicles-not the same platform with different top hats, but totally distinct vehicles, even for different OEMs-on the same line. To do this, they would deploy what Wilbur called "humination," a play on "human" and "automation," all of which is to say that this would be a people-centric, low-investment tooling approach to production. Given that many a cool car has been built in a garage, this approach makes sense.-GSV