Engine maker struggles to shift gears and hopes KYMCO scooters will help
If you could judge the stock price performance of Golden-based Unique Mobility on its ability to produce press releases, the company's shares should be trading in the stratosphere.
Between June 1995 and September of this year, Unique Mobility produced some 30 press releases, many of them announcing research projects for advanced electric motor design.
Sandwiched between the press releases announcing new contracts are financial announcements that tell why the company's shares, traded on the American Stock Exchange, have been stuck in the $3 to $5 range during the past year.
Unique Mobility's revenue has dropped from $4.8 million in 1995 to about $3.6 million in 1996 for the nine months ended July 31, and the company's loss has mushroomed from $602,000 to $2 million during the nine-month period.
Based on about 11 million shares outstanding, the nine-month 1996 loss amounts to about 20 cents per share and the company's stock was trading at $4.75 Oct. 6.
The company told me that Unique Mobility has changed direction in its search for a way to make money on its patented technology for advanced electric engines and engine controls.
Unique has wound down a research project with Ford Motor Co. to develop a hybrid vehicle powered partly by conventional engines and partly by its electric motors. A U.S. Department of Energy contract also has ended.
Officials said they are in the process of gearing up operations that will produce lightweight, high-powered motors for wheelchair maker Invacare, a recent purchaser of Unique's shares. Another big bet has been placed on KYMCO, a joint venture that's hoping to build and sell electric-powered motor scooters in Taiwan.
Unique, which operates from a small headquarters and machine shop it owns in an industrial park off 6th Avenue, isn't exaggerating when it says its electric motors can "crumple pavement" when installed in vehicles ranging from motorbikes to buses and delivery trucks. A demonstration ride I took on a prototype KYMCO motor scooter showed that its battery-powered devices have plenty of zip.
So much zip, in fact, that the Defense Department has put one of Unique's motors on each wheel of a Hummer. The company claims it can boost the slow-footed Hummer's acceleration to an impressive zero-60 miles per hour in 11 seconds.
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Mark Harris contributes and publishes news editorial to http://www.the-scooters-report.com.
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