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AC Cobra’s plant closed

Production of AC Cobras has ceased in Malta with the closure of the plant following the disappearance of Alan Lubinsky, who transferred the brand to the island from the UK.

The island government’s Malta Enterprise is reported to be suing Lubinsky to retrieve a €582,343 loan (about £455,000).

Two Maltese companies are understood to have already sued Lubinsky for another €56,000 (about £44,000).

In two separate cases, one in 2006 and another in 2007, the court ruled that the investor should immediately pay these debts. The ruling was never enforced.

Unconfirmed reports in business circles on the island say Lubinsky has gone to Israel, where his wife was born. They are thought to have a home there.

Malta Enterprise made no comment but the Malta Star newspaper has reported that Lubinsky did not repay any of the loan.

Clive Sutton, whose London dealership sources specialist cars for clients, was appointed AC’s UK distributor in 2006 after going to Malta to see the plant.

“We sold only two cars,” said Sutton. “The retail price is about £70,000 but the finish was so poor we had to spend around £10,000 in rectification work on each of them.

“The paintwork was bad, the clutches needed replacing, the bonnet stays were faulty and there were other problems.

“With a high standard of assembly, there would be a good demand for these cars. It is another great wasted opportunity in the motor industry.”

There were plans to use the AC brand name on cars made by Project Kimber, which was buying the rights to assemble a new version of the axed Smart roadster and coupé.

Nearly two years ago, the Welsh Assembly announced its support for the enterprise. An international consortium planned to invest £65 million and set up an assembly plant in Wales, subject to EU and other grants.

The assembly made no official comment but a source there said: “Nothing has happened since the announcement”.

The most recent posting, on the Project Kimber web-site in December 2006, said it was still seeking funding. Lubinsky was given the loan and a Maltese Government factory on an industrial estate for the enterprise.

He employed 15 people and bought equipment to make the cars. Press reports in Malta say Lubinsky has left a number of private companies who sold him equipment for the factory “empty-handed”.

Another said: “Malta Enterprise has not yet publicly explained who is to be held responsible for supporting this failed investment with such a hefty loan. And no one can say that it had no warning.” Lubinsky has suffered a number of failed enterprises. His AC company had twice revamped its operations – in the UK in 2002, and in Bridgeport, USA, in 2006.

In America, Lubinsky had promised to invest $4.5 million (£2.25 million today) and employ 141 employees. He agreed to borrow $1.5 million (£750,000) but the investment was never made. 

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