ALL the News about
Mormons, Mormonism
and the LDS Church
Mormon News: All the News about Mormons, Mormonism and the LDS Church
For week ended December 12, 1999 Posted 18 Dec 1999

Most Recent Week
Front Page
Local News
Arts & Entertainment
·New Products
·New Websites
·Mormon Stock Index
Letters to Editor
Continuing Coverage of:
Boston Temple
School Prayer
Julie on MTV
Robert Elmer Kleasen
About Mormon News
News by E-Mail
Weekly Summary
Submitting News
Submitting Press Releases
Volunteer Positions
Bad Link?
Mormon Henry Ford Tries to Change the World (Quebec's Henry Ford?)

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Mormon Henry Ford Tries to Change the World (Quebec's Henry Ford?)
Montreal Canada Gazette 11Dec99 B2
By Francois Shalom: The Gazette

MONTREAL, CANADA -- The "bearded Mormon preacher" Robert Menard has a vision - to provide cheap, reliable cars to the developing world. He believes that his firm, Microvel Technologies, will be the Henry Ford for the third world.

Menard has produced a prototype of a basic, stripped-down, low-cost, non-polluting, aluminum mini-car aimed at high-density population countries trying to develop a modern infrastructure. The MX-4 is an electric/steam-turbine powered car that would retail for about $10,000. Not much bigger than a golf cart, the car is designed for hotter climates -- it has no air conditioning, no heating and no other energy-consuming systems that don't propel the car.

If Menard's talks this week with Carl Cloutier, an adviser to Deputy Premier Bernard Landry, are successful, his firm will build the first plant to produce the MX-4 in Jonquiere, Canada. Menard says that Jonquiere is a logical place to build the cars because Alcan Aluminium Ltd. has an smelter there and is building another, larger, smelter just 18 miles away, giving Microvel a ready supply of Aluminum.

The company believes that there is a huge, pent-up demand for a low-cost vehicle in developing nations. "The MX-4 is custom-made for the Third World,. There, performance is not the point. And down the road, there will be a need for bigger passenger cars, minibuses, buses and trucks." Most trips in the third world are just a few miles, needing only a very basic vehicle like the MX-4. The low-pollution design would also alleviate growing pollution problems in those countries.

If successful, Menard sees Microvel building the hybrid vehicles in eight different plants around the world within the next 10 years. Menard says that he doesn't expect serious competition from mainstream car makers, who are oriented toward more expensive vehicles for the developed world. "Well, Toyota (which makes the Prius hybrid model) sells its cars for $40,000, four times what our's costs," says Menard (but the Gazette points out that the Prius actually retails for about $23,000 in Japan, still more than twice what Menard plans).

Menard is looking for $4.5 million (Canadian) to get started, followed by $160 million (Canadian) after getting listed on the Nasdaq stock market, where he plans to raise most of the cash the company needs.

But not everyone believes in Menard's ability to produce his vision. The Societe Generale de Financement, the Canadian government's financing arm, and Investissement Quebec, which bankrolls business investments, both passed on Menard's project. SGF spokesperson Jean-Yves Duthel said that SGF "had lengthy talks [with Menard], and we would have required wholesale changes to go ahead with the project." Duthel says the negotiations collapsed when Menard refused to set up a formal company structure. "We would have wanted a proper board of directors, and a formal management structure and organization. He was rather ambitious from the start and simply refused to give up any control. But we parted as good friends."

This might sound like an indication of a project doomed to fail, but Duthel isn't so sure, "The product itself is an excellent one. No one is questioning the value of the concept and the prototypes they've come out with." Menard is, of course, more enthusiastic. He says the MX-4 "will change the world."

But Tom Lewinson president of the Ottawa-based Electric Vehicles Association of Canada says that the execution is very important also. "It's entirely feasible to design something, even if you can't bring it to market. . . . Microvel makes sense to me in theory. But whether it's realistic, I really don't know."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information