The United States government has suspended loans to Fisker Automotive, the startup company building the Karma luxury sedan. Employees are being laid off as the company restructures.
Department of Energy turns lights off on Fisker funding
Fisker Automotive had previously been green-lit for a $529 million in loans from the Department of Energy, according to AutoWeek. Like all loans from the DOE, the loan came with certain conditions that had to be met, notably production goals.
The DOE has disbursed $193 million for development and production of the Karma, the company’s flagship sedan. The remaining funds were slated for production of a second model, the Nina, which was supposed to be released this year. However, the company has pushed the Nina back for a 2013 release, triggering the need for a consult with the DOE.
The DOE has blocked release of the remaining $336 million in funding until it is satisfied with Fisker’s progress. In the meantime, according to AutoBlog, 26 people at Fisker’s plant in Wilmington, Del., and 40 contractors at the company’s facility in Anaheim, Calif., have also been let go.
Nina close to production
A Fisker spokesman told the press that DOE loan negotiations are fairly “standard” given the circumstances and the political climate. Vice President Joe Biden, according to CBS, has publicly backed Fisker opening its factory in his home state of Delaware.
Production for the Nina, which according to AutoWeek will be a moderately sized sedan, roughly between a compact and mid-size in proportion. The Nina is going to be built in Delaware, at a re-fitted former General Motors factory.
The turbocharged four-cylinder engine has been sourced from BMW, and the car is almost ready for production. Some engineering work still needs to be completed and the factory needs more equipment in order to begin production, which is scheduled for later this year.
Lean, green and mean
Fisker uses a similar drive train to the Chevrolet Volt. The Karma and the upcoming Nina are powered by a battery pack, but a gasoline engine kicks in once the battery is depleted, acting as an on-board generator. Performance isn’t known, but it uses a similar engine to the Karma, which has a maximum range of 300 miles and gets from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.2 seconds. The Nina, according to AutoBlog, is projected to retail for about $45,000.
The closest competition is the Tesla S and the Lexus GS 450h. The Lexus, a traditional hybrid, is going on sale later this year. It will produce about 338 horsepower, can get up to 34 miles per gallon highway and nips from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds. The Tesla S is a fully electric car, but is more expensive than the Nina. The base model also has a lesser range. The base model’s 40 kWh battery pack only goes 160 miles on a charge and starts at $49,900.