A streak of bad luck for Fisker, part 1

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Fisker Karma extended-range ev.

Fisker Karma extended-range ev. Image: d_vdm/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Fisker Automotive has seen its share of setbacks in its short existence. The startup hybrid automaker was backed by federal and state loans. Now, the company’s Newport, Del., production plant is, in the words of one former employee, “absolutely empty.” Another round of layoffs sent a dozen engineers and technicians home last week. Fisker is far from throwing in the towel, however.

Gearing up to produce Atlantic

The plant was gearing up to produce the $47,000 Atlantic range-extended electric sedan that made its debut as a concept car in early April at the New York Auto Show. The Atlantic is a down-sized, less powerful version of the company’s doomed Karma model.

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The plant once belonged to GM but was shuttered in 2009 when the giant automaker filed for bankruptcy.

A dozen layoffs

The layoffs were handed down Friday and likely came as a surprise to nobody. It is the second such round of layoffs for the automaker. The first 26 were laid off in February when the federal Department of Energy blocked the automaker’s access to loan money, saying that Fisker was unable to meet some production milestones.

Fisker did not meet the DOE’s schedule to launch its Karma extended-range EV.

A small maintenance crew remains at the plant “protecting plant assets and maintaining the facility,” according to Fisker spokesman Russell Datz.

Jeffrey Garland, one of the Fisker employees who was laid off last week, said:

“All of us who were there hoped we were still adding value. I think what happened was the budget numbers are so tight right now and they’re working so hard to preserve as much cash as they can that something had to give. We’re not making a car in Wilmington right now, so given that situation, it was an obvious place to make a cut.”

A new headcount

Fisker plans to rehire most of those laid off employees if and when it next gears up for production. Datz said the company’s business plan is flexible enough to allow for temporary setbacks:

“We have always had a flexible business model that allows us to scale up and down as work demands. As we ramp up the project again, we will add a new headcount. We’ve accomplished a lot at the plant, using more than 40 local contract firms to recycle old material and equipment. The plant is now ready for the next phase of installing new production equipment.”

However, Tom LaSorda, the CEO of Fisker, recently said that the company cannot make cars in Delaware at all if it does not find more funding. However, should Fisker leave the state, Delaware would demand its money back. The DOE would also demand the $193 million it has already given to the startup automaker.

Fisker, Part 2


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