Published November 30, 2012
Fisker Automotive, the luxury plug-in hybrid car maker that got millions in taxpayer subsidies to help build its $103,000 sedans, has suspended production because the company that makes the batteries for its cars is bankrupt, according to Bloomberg News.
A123 Systems, which supplies Fisker with lithium-ion battery packs, declared bankruptcy in October and has since frozen operations. The battery maker’s assets are slated to be sold off at a Dec. 6 auction, with Wisconsin-based auto industry supplier Johnson Controls and China’s Wanxiang Group Corp. are considered the front runners to take over the company’s battery business.
Officials at Fisker’s Anaheim, Calif., headquarters say the company has enough packs in stock to service existing customers, but hasn’t been building new cars since the battery supply ran dry.
Earlier this year, Fisker recalled more than 600 cars due to a defect with the battery packs that was later fixed. But the cost of replacing them, combined with the slower than expected adoption of electric cars in general, spelled the end for A123, which is also under contract to supply batteries for the upcoming Chevrolet Spark EV.
The Karma’s engineering precludes simply switching to a new supplier, according to company CEO Tony Posawatz, who joined the Fisker in August after retiring from General Motors where he oversaw development of the plug-in Chevrolet Volt.
Fisker is moving forward with the next generation technology that will be used in its second model, the smaller and more affordable Atlantic, which was originally slated for production at the end of this year, Posawatz told FoxNews.com.
“There’s a few things we need to sort out to take the next step on Atlantic, but you can see now things aligning,” he said, speaking at the Los Angeles Auto Show earlier this week.
Posawatz recently announced plans to open a new technical center in the Midwest, where the company will continue engineering work on the Atlantic. The company intends to manufacture that car at a former General Motors facility in Wilmington, Del., that it purchased in 2010 with the help of a $529 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program.
“We do need a little bit more funding to take that next step, but we do look forward to, hopefully, in the coming months, to tell you more about when the Atlantic is coming,” Posawatz says.
The Atlantic project was delayed when the Energy Department blocked access to that loan guarantee earlier this year, after Fisker failed to meet certain milestones in bringing the Karma to showrooms. Fisker was only able to draw down $190 million from the loan before it was cut off, but has raised more than $1 billion in private equity and is continuing to seek new investors.
Along with several of its loan programs, the ATVM program has been unofficially dormant in recent months, which some analysts say is the result of election year politics in the wake of the bankruptcy of several loan recipients. Among them solar energy company Solyndra, which received $535 million from the Energy Department before going out of business last year.
The last time the ATVM approved a loan was in November, 2010, when it gave $50 million to the Vehicle Production Group, a company that builds natural gas-powered handicapped accessible vans.
Several other startup electric car companies, including Bright Automotive and Aptera Motors, went out of business while waiting for loans. Another, 'inflatable' car company XP Vehicles, has announced plans to sue the Energy Department, accusing it of corruption and negligence in the administration of the program.
But Fisker may not be done with the ATVM. Posawatz told FoxNews.com “we are having discussions with the DOE on what’s next now that we’re post election.”