Can Bob Lutz and the Chinese Save Fisker?
If Bob Lutz is winding down, you wouldn't know it. The cigar-chomping former GM product chief is responsible, at least in part, for a host of cars you see on the road today — among them the Chevrolet Camaro, the Chevrolet Volt and the outgoing Cadillac CTS. Lutz turned 81 last February, but he's still a contributing writer at Forbes magazine, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. He's a board member at Utah-based Via Motors, which retrofits a few GM models with plug-in gas/electric drivetrains. And together with Michigan entrepreneur Gilbert Villarreal, he launched VL Automotive, a company that plans to retrofit gas-electric Fisker Karma sedans with GM-supplied, supercharged 6.2-liter V-8s.
Problem is, Fisker is sinking faster than "American Idol" ratings. Lutz said earlier this month that a Fisker bankruptcy wouldn't affect VL's immediate plans, but now it appears he's taking action. Reuters reports VL Automotive has teamed with Chinese parts supplier Wanxiang Group, which bought Fisker's bankrupt battery supplier earlier this year, to offer $20 million for Fisker as part of a packaged bankruptcy deal.
Fisker and representatives at both buyers declined comment to Reuters, but the potential deal illustrates just how far the California-based automaker has fallen. Reuters notes Fisker told investors it was worth nearly $2 billion as recently as December 2011. The automaker planned to build a more affordable sibling to the Karma called the Atlantic at a shuttered GM plant in Delaware, but the tide soon changed. The Department of Energy suspended a low-interest loan when Fisker failed to meet loan conditions, and the automaker laid off most of its work force in April. Reuters says it still owes some $171 million to the DOE.
Will Lutz become a part owner in Fisker? Time — and money — will tell.