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CEO with grand, green vision loses position

The man who arguably sparked all the excitement about producing green vehicles in Elkhart has lost his position at the head of his company, Electric Motors Corp, The Elkhart Truth reported. Wil Cashen -- who enthused to msnbc.com last July about the "unimaginable potential" for new green tech production in Elkhart's empty factories -- was removed from his position as CEO of the Malibu-based company, EMC announced on Thursday.

What Cashen's departure means for EMC's Elkhart initiative has not been spelled out, but it certainly could be positive if results in the company nailing down its plan and sticking to it.

The company had suffered "a problem of focus" said chief financial officer Ralph King. Cashen, who came to Elkhart in early 2009 trumpeting the idea of building hybrid pick-up trucks and electric drive trains--projecting that the operation would generate 1,600 jobs--but the vision kept shifting while producing few concrete results.

So, while Cashen led the charge to build green-technology vehicles here, EMC lags behind two other companies that have entered the green vehicle arena here.

Unlike Navistar, and the Norwegian company Think, which just announced its plans to produce in Elkhart, EMC has not received any public money to get its operation started. The company was turned down in the opening round of applications to the U.S. Department of Energy. Then it was seeking $500 million.

This time, it will set a more realistic goal--maybe $20 million, says King.

King insisted that the company was still viable, and committed remaining in Elkhart to develop its products, while running the operation with a "stringent, old-fashioned management style."

This change may not have the romance of Cashen's grandiose vision, but old-fashioned management might be what it takes to produce old-fashioned results.