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.

By Kelsey Mays | May 28, 2013 | Comments (1)

Plug-in Cars: Where Can You Buy Them?


Thursday’s pricing announcement for the Chevrolet Spark EV likely piqued some interest on the West Coast, but chances are few others gave it much attention. GM will sell the all-electric hatchback only in California and Oregon; the automaker has announced no plans to sell it elsewhere, spokesman Kevin Kelly told us.

Where can EV fans find their cars? We tallied up the states.

No surprise: Californians get the biggest slice of the EV pie. Thank the state's zero-emissions vehicle mandate, which requires automakers to sell a certain percentage of zero-emissions vehicles, explained Ed Kim, AutoPacific's vice president of industry analysis. Nearby Washington state has adopted California's emissions requirements but not the ZEV quota, and states such as Oregon and a number along the East Coast have adopted both.

The emissions requirement should eventually align with the federal government's 2025 corporate average fuel economy requirements. But it still means "a plug-in car sold in Oregon counts towards California’s required ZEV volume for the automaker that makes that vehicle," Kim wrote in an email. "It’s not a natural consumer market for such vehicles, but rather a market legislated into existence."

By Kelsey Mays | May 24, 2013 | Comments (1)

Coda Becomes Latest EV Start-Up to Short Circuit


Los Angeles-based start-up Coda announced today that it is declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy and pulling the plug on its electric vehicle. The news echoes other recent high-profile struggles for EV start-ups like Aptera and perhaps most notably Fisker, which just last week met with Congress amid emerging details of continual financial failures.

The Detroit News reported today that the company's parent, Coda Holdings Inc., said it would restructure to focus on the energy-storage portion of the business, Coda Energy, formed in 2011. Coda, which made its bankruptcy filing in Delaware, announced that it expected to complete a sale of the company within 45 days and that its energy-storage business would remain fully operational during the restructuring, the newspaper reported.

By Matt Schmitz | May 1, 2013 | Comments (4)

Fisker Edges Closer to Bankruptcy as New Details Emerge


The travails continue for Anaheim, Calif.-based Fisker. Executives at the struggling plug-in-vehicle maker met with Congress Wednesday, and new details emerged on Fisker's government dealings.

It goes like this. The U.S. Department of Energy approved $529 million in low-interest loans to Fisker in 2010 as part of its $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program, which met political fire and ceased loans to any companies in 2011. But now the Detroit News reports Fisker received $32 million in program loans in February 2011 under the notion — as required by the DOE — that it had begun to build the Karma plug-in sedan. Karma production did not, in fact, begin until months later. The federal government found out, and in June 2011, after receiving $192 million of the $529 million awarded, Fisker lost its D.C. sugar daddy.

By Kelsey Mays | April 26, 2013 | Comments (6)

Fisker Lays Off 75% of Workforce as Bankruptcy Looms


Leonardo DiCaprio may love his Fisker Karma, but the California automaker is listing like the Titanic. Less than a month after founder Henrik Fisker quit, the boutique car company laid off some 160 employees, the Detroit News reports, as it struggles to secure funding. That's about 75% of its workforce. Automotive News reports the automaker is now facing a federal lawsuit for failing to give those employees adequate notice.

Fisker set sail in 2007, but the voyage has seen icebergs galore. We reviewed the $103,000 (including destination charge) Karma plug-in hybrid in March 2012, and we found it, well, quirky. That same month, Consumer Reports bought a Karma that promptly broke down. Fisker recalled the car twice during the next five months, the second time for possible electrical problems that could lead to a fire.

Now the Detroit News estimates Fisker has just $30 million left. Just how little is that? Consider this: Bloomberg News reports the automaker had raised more than $1 billion from private sources plus $529 million in low-interest Department of Energy loans — part of the agency's controversial $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program, whose recipients range from Tesla to Ford. The DOE stopped payments in 2011 after Fisker failed to meet conditions for the loan. Having already spent $193 million of the funding, Fisker suspended plans to build a more affordable car called the Atlantic at a shuttered GM plant in Delaware.

By Kelsey Mays | April 8, 2013 | Comments (5)

Fisker's Savior Could Come From China

Start-up plug-in car company Fisker Automotive may have started in Anaheim, Calif., but the troubled automaker's operations could be moving to China. According to USA Today, Fisker is interested in selling a controlling stake of the company, and an interested party is Dongfeng Motor Corp., one of China's largest automakers.

USA Today reports that the Wuhan, China-based company has made a $350 million offer that would give it a majority stake of the company. Fisker is seeking investors to keep it afloat after a year full of production delays, recalls and financial setbacks, including the loss of Department of Energy loans, a CEO shakeup and employee layoffs.

The company's only vehicle, the Karma sedan, retails for $103,000, including a $1,000 destination charge, and is no longer in production since battery supplier A123 Systems Inc. filed for bankruptcy last year. In light of its troubles, Fisker has also shelved plans to produce the smaller and more affordable Atlantic extended-range electric sedan.

Report: Fisker weighing bids, including Dongfeng (USA Today)
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By Jennifer Geiger | February 18, 2013 | Comments (0)

Automakers to Scrap Thousands of Sandy-Damaged Cars

Sandy damage
As East Coast dealerships continue to regroup after Hurricane Sandy, Bloomberg News is reporting that automakers will have to scrap around 15,000 storm-damaged new vehicles.

Hurricane Sandy was the biggest Atlantic storm in U.S. history, causing at least 100 deaths and billions of dollars in damage. Larry Dixon, senior analyst for the National Automobile Dealers Association, told Bloomberg that about 200,000 vehicles may have to be replaced because of storm damage.

By Jennifer Geiger | November 7, 2012 | Comments (2)

Fisker Delays Mass-Market Atlantic


Production of Fisker's smaller Atlantic extended-range electric sedan has been pushed back to 2014 or 2015, according to a report from Reuters. Fisker planned the Atlantic to be a more affordable, mass-marketed luxury electric sedan, a follow-up to the expensive Karma extended-range electric car.

"The Atlantic is really the volume car that begins to build growth," Fisker chief executive Tony Posawatz said in an investor presentation where the updated Atlantic information was revealed.

The midsize Atlantic is roughly the size of an Audi A6 and uses a new, lighter platform compared with the larger Karma, despite looking nearly identical. The Atlantic's targeted base price of $55,000 is considerably more affordable than the $102,000 Karma, and the new platform could spawn future models, like an SUV.

The production delay comes after a rough year for Fisker. The Department of Energy froze a $529 million loan, and numerous recalls have tainted the Karma's launch after already being delayed roughly a year.

Fisker Atlantic Sedan Production Pushed Back at Least Two Years (Reuters)
Fisker Atlantic Concept at the New York Auto Show
2012 Fisker Karma Review

By Joe Bruzek | October 17, 2012 | Comments (1)

Recall Alert: 2012 Fisker Karma

Boutique hybrid-car maker Fisker is recalling 1,377 model-year 2012 versions of the Karma four-seat plug-in hybrid due to problems with the engine cooling fan, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In the affected vehicles, which were built from June 15 through July 9, 2012 (check your vehicle's build date on a sticker on the driver-side doorjamb), the low-temperature cooling fan that could short out. This could lead to a fire.

Fisker will notify owners starting today, and dealers will replace the affected parts free of charge. Owners can call Fisker at 855-575-7577 (select option 2) or NHTSA's vehicle safety hotline at 888-327-4236 for more info.

Research the 2012 Fisker Karma
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By Jennifer Geiger | August 27, 2012 | Comments (2)

Daily News Briefs: June 14, 2012


More details have emerged on the potential Saab asset sell, according to Automotive News. The deal, devised by a Japan-Hong Kong partnership, so far only includes the purchasing rights to the current Saab 9-3 vehicle and a platform Saab was developing called "Phoenix," which was supposed to be the next-generation 9-3. The firm also wants to buy the old Saab factory, but it plans to hire only 200 employees instead of the 3,500 that used to work there. The new Saab company, called National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB, aims to become the world’s largest purveyor of electric vehicles, turning Saab exclusively into an EV maker. The new company won’t have the rights to build the Saab 9-5 or the Saab 9-4x, according to GM, which owns the technology rights to those vehicles. The company won’t own Saab’s spare parts company, either. The biggest omission to the deal is the rights to the Saab brand name; those discussions are still ongoing, according to the company. If the deal goes through, the new company aims to build EVs using Japanese technology on the Saab platform by 2013 or 2014.

In other news:

By Colin Bird | June 14, 2012 | Comments (0)

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