A Show-Stealing Croatian Upstart Makes Debut in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES — If there were an award for Most Unique Car at the 2011 Los Angeles auto show, a judge would be hard pressed to explain a vote in favor of anything other than the XD electric vehicle from Dok-Ing Automotiv.
It’s not only that the XD is built in Croatia, a country that — at least for now — does not evoke River Rouge-like manufacturing plants. It’s not only the car’s carbon fiber, aluminum and Kevlar; its luxury appointments; its fully digital touch-screen instrument panel; its purported zero-to-62-m.p.h. acceleration of 4.2 seconds via four high-power motors; and its diminutive nine-foot body that seats three people — one in front and two on either side of the driver.
It’s all of these things, and the fact that the XD is the singular vision of one man, Vjekoslav Majetic.
Mr. Majetic, Dok-Ing’s chief executive, used a Croatian industrial designer, who worked much as a tailor would to produce a custom suit. “I don’t like this. Remove it. Move this over here, and so on,” said Mr. Majetic of the design process in an interview at Dok-Ing’s stand at the auto show. The designer duly responded to his boss’s vision of an ideal personal car.
“I will put myself in the middle because it’s the safest place in the car,” Mr. Majetic said, explaining why the steering column was not positioned toward the right or left, but down the middle. The two passengers stretch their legs past the driver on either side and enter the car through gullwing doors after the driver is seated.
“If you multiply Smart with the Rolls-Royce, you get the Dok-Ing XD,” said Zoran Segina, a Los Angeles-based automotive journalist from Zagreb, where the XD is built.
Mr. Segina explained how it came to be that Mr. Majetic, whose company builds heavy-duty remote-control vehicles used for clearing landmines, as well as robotic firefighting vehicles, decided to seek a vehicle to replace his BMW X5.
“The streets of Zagreb are narrow, parking is nearly nonexistent and gasoline costs about $10 a gallon,” Mr. Segina said. Not satisfied with anything on the market, Mr. Majetic chose to use his company’s one million square feet of manufacturing capacity to build his dream car.
The chassis of the XD was designed and manufactured from the ground up by Dok-Ing in Croatia, as was the car’s computer control systems. The company tapped Bosch, a major auto supplier, for the car’s braking and electronic stability systems.
The packaging of the XD is clever, yielding more rear cargo space than what’s offered in the similar-size Smart Fortwo. “My friends are always joking with me that we’ll first sell this car to the mobsters, because it’s small and it’s fast,” said Tomislav Bosko, Mr. Majetic’s son-in-law and Dok-Ing’s product manager. “And because the trunk is big enough to fit a body,” he added.
Dok-Ing, a company with annual sales of $40 million, according to Mr. Majetic, has made only three units. One is here at the show, while in Croatia there is an open-top version as well as one equipped with all-wheel drive.
Dok-Ing Automotiv has spent about $3 million, according to Mr. Bosko. The company hopes to ramp up to about 1,000 cars a year, after selling about 100 in Europe in 2012. The price tag is $80,000.
Dok-Ing is showing its XD in Los Angeles with the hope that it would attract an American investor to bring the car to the United States. The E.V. is exhibited directly adjacent to luxury wares from Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Bentley and another start-up, the Mexican supercar company Mastretta.
Mr. Majetic said only a few words at Dok-Ing’s press conference here Thursday, but he made them count.
“If you have dreams, and you really want to achieve them, you can do what you wish,” he said.
“If you have money,” his son-in-law added.
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