Published February 29, 2012
The Department of Energy may have cut off Fisker Automotive from its $529 million line of credit, but the California electric-car startup is preparing to move forward with or without it.
On Tuesday, the company announced that founder Henrik Fisker would be replaced as CEO by automotive industry veteran Tom LaSorda, a position he once held at Chrysler. LaSorda has been the Vice Chairman of the automaker’s board since December 2011, a position he will continue to hold as Fisker himself becomes Executive Chairman.
The addition of a heavyweight like LaSorda to oversee day to day operations is a clear signal that Fisker intends to go it alone, if necessary, even as it tries to renegotiate the terms of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan originally approved in 2010. The Department of Energy recently froze the loan after Fisker failed to meet certain development and sales milestones for its $103,000 Karma sedan, which is currently on sale at the company’s 46 U.S. dealers.
To date, Fisker has only drawn $193 million from the DOE program, $169 million of which was earmarked for development of the Karma. The bulk of the money was set to go toward a less expensive line of cars known as Nina that are set to be manufactured at a former General Motors factory in Wilmington, Delaware.
That project is now on hold as Fisker seeks private equity to replace the $336 million dollar shortfall, in the event that it can’t reach a new agreement with the DOE. Fisker says the car is signed off on and ready for production if the funds can be raised. The automaker planned to build up to 100,000 vehicles per year at the facility.
Nevertheless, Fisker says that the lower volume Karma is bringing in enough money to be self-sustaining, even if the Nina program never comes to fruition. Following his appointment as CEO, LaSorda told the Detroit Free Press that his main focus is to make the Finnish-built Karma a profitable standalone model.
The Karma is a four-door, four-seat extended-range electric luxury car with an all-electric range of 32 miles per charge, according to the EPA. After that a turbocharged four-cylinder engine acts as a generator to provide electricity for longer trips. Fisker has built more than 1,500 of the cars since it went on sale in December and has previously said that it plans to sell 15,000 of them annually.
To this end, reports out of Europe now say that Fisker will introduce a second model based on the Karma, called the Surf, at the Paris Motor Show this fall. The station wagon or “shooting brake” version addresses one of the Karma’s major shortfalls, a lack of cargo room due to the large size of its battery pack and rear-mounted electric drivetrain.
Although a concept version of the Surf was first shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2011, a Fisker spokesperson tells FoxNews.com that media reports regarding its introduction are “pure speculation.”