We've observed the slow-motion luxury hybrid car crash that has been Fisker's path to market for the past few years.
Reuters is now reporting that Wanxiang Group, China's largest auto parts supplier, has joined with former vice-chairman of GM Robert Lutz to make an offer for venture-backed electric hybrid car builder Fisker.
Lutz led the development of the extended-range plug-in Volt at Chevrolet.
Wanxiang recently purchased A123 Systems, the bankrupt lithium-ion battery maker that supplies batteries for the Fisker Karma. Wanxiang intends to keep A123's grid battery business alive in the form of A123 Energy Solutions, a division which has already deployed in excess of 100 megawatts in grid projects from Hawaii to Chile.
Wanxiang could restart production to fill Fisker’s needs. Fisker said in late January that it was awaiting the opening of A123’s Livonia, Mich. battery plant to restart Karma production.
Fisker has been struggling amidst a very public set of troubles, including production delays, storm-related losses, bad reviews and recalls of its $100,000-plus Karma plug-in sports car. It’s also been denied ongoing access to a $539 million Department of Energy loan meant to build a factory for the startup’s promised $55,000 plug-in sedan, the Atlantic. Fisker has drawn down about $192 million of that loan, but it has stopped work at the Delaware site and laid off about half its workforce.
Founder and namesake Henrik Fisker left in March, amidst reports that China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group was leading in bidding to take a majority stake in Fisker.
Most recently, we've seen the pain of layoffs and restructuring and the descent of bankruptcy lawyers.
Fisker raised nearly $1.2 billion in private investment since its 2007 founding. Much of that has come in the last year and a half, including $380 million from KPCB and NEA in the first half of 2012, as well as now-defunct investment firm Advanced Equities (Fisker raised $103 million of a $150 million round from Advanced Equities in the third quarter, according to this SEC filing). Fisker's $1.2 billion in private investment makes it one of the largest VC-funded implosions in history.
About 1,500 Karma models have been sold to date, but Fisker has not built a car since last July.
Jalopnik wrote that the Fisker has "an interior the size of a Geo Metro, build quality that has a real Pyongyang sort of charm, and, of course, a crippling lack of money. But holy crap, is that a pretty car." Jalopnik suggests that Fisker abandon any pretense of battery power and just put an internal combustion engine in the beautiful body of the Fisker.
Jalopnik's hopes have been answered.
Lutz and partner Gilbert Villarreal launched the VL Destino at the Detroit Car Show earlier this year. The Destino mates the Fisker shell with the drivetrain of a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. It reportedly sells for $180,000 compared to the Fisker's $110,000 price tag, although Fisker's models are now reportedly selling for half that.
Green Car Reports notes that the Destino might not be significantly less fuel-efficient than the 20-mile-per-gallon Fisker.
Fisker's position remains shaky, and sources warned that efforts to revive Fisker are ongoing.