GM Sinks, Aquada Swims

July 16, 2008

The news this week underscores just how difficult it is to survive in the tumultuous auto industry. Yet even as General Motors sinks, a small British startup is hoping to swim. Quite literally.

Regular readers might recall a couple stories I wrote early in the summer of 2007 about the Gibbs Aquada. The British-based company had developed a neat little prototype that could convert from car to sea cruiser in just 12 seconds, with little more than the push of a button.

It's been a bumpy year, as CEO Neil Jenkins has struggled to line up funding and get, if you'll allow us, his ducks in a row. And this week, if you'll allow another nautical pun, the State of Michigan pumps some wind in Aquada's sails, authorizing a 10-year, $5.9 million tax credit that will permit the firm to set up a new R&D facility that should eventually employ as many as 250.

Using a jet thruster somewhat like those you find in personal water craft, the Aquada will cruise at up to 35 mph. On land, its 175-horsepower V-6 will punch it up to 115 mph.

If all goes according to plan, Gibbs hopes to be building 1,000 Aquada a year, starting in 2010.

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