President Barack Obama made a visit to Navistar Wednesday to present a $39 million federal grant to build all-electric delivery vehicles
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy
. The president hopes the effort will bring jobs to the Elkhart County, Ind., communities, where its facilities are located.

The grant is part of the an unprecedented $2.4 billion investment in 48 new advanced battery and electric drive projects, funded through the Recovery Act, announced by the president.

The $2.4 billion is the single largest investment ever in advanced battery technology for hybrid and electric drive vehicles, and coupled with another $2.4 billion in cost share from the award winners, it will result in the creation of tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs that are much needed in places like Elkhart, according to the White House blog. Places like Elkhart have been hit particularly hard as manufacturing jobs have disappeared, but this new investment provides $39 million for Navistar to create or save hundreds of jobs in Elkhart.

"I'm committed to a strategy that ensures America leads in the design and the deployment of the next generation of clean-energy vehicles," Obama said. "This is not just an investment to produce vehicles today; this is an investment in our capacity to develop new technologies tomorrow. This is about creating the infrastructure of innovation."

Navistar plans to produce 400 all-electric vehicles in 2010, with the goal of rolling out several thousand of these vehicles annually within a couple years. The company expects to hire additional people right off the bat, and bring on even more as volumes increase and the market grows. The grant application requests the creation of up to 700 jobs, which includes Navistar employees and suppliers.

"The all-electric delivery vehicle is a concrete example of what business and government can do when we work together," said Dan Ustian, Navistar chairman, president and CEO.

Navistar is in the final states of approving a joint venture with Modec of the United Kingdom to produce and sell electric Class 2c-3 commercial vehicles in North, Central and South America. This zero emission all-electric delivery vehicle would primarily be used by drivers for local deliveries that involve stop and go driving.

"Navistar is keenly aware of our fiscal and social responsibilities as we stand here today in a facility that Navistar bought from a bankrupt entity," said Ustian. "Navistar believes in its people and products, and that is why the company is investing in the Elkhart area."

Earlier this year, Navistar purchased certain assets of the recreational vehicle manufacturing business of Monaco Coach Corporation, a recreational vehicle manufacturer.