WASHINGTON, DC -- Spurred by the belief that the market for
fuel-efficient vehicles is about to take off, a slew of tiny car
companies are springing up in Europe and the U.S. They are racing to
produce the next "green" car, betting that soaring demand will allow
them to survive alongside the giants of Detroit, Stuttgart and Tokyo.
Most of the upstarts were founded in the last 12 months and have
financial backing from venture-capital firms. They are headed by
former top engineers and designers from the likes of Germany's
Volkswagen AG and storied U.K. racecar builder McLaren.
Responding to soaring gasoline prices and a tightening noose of
emissions regulations in Europe and the U.S., the companies are
working on a new generation of hybrid and electric vehicles.
One problem: Competition from the industry giants is real. Daimler AG,
Toyota Motor Corp., General Motors Corp., Renault SA and Mitsubishi
Corp. are all developing new-generation electric vehicles. The
upstarts are entering a notoriously tough market.
But analysts say shrinking research-and-development budgets at the big
auto makers and their interest in outside help to develop key
technology may have opened up the road for smaller players.
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