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Fisker Karma
Electric car startup grows thanks to a government loan

Currently, California-based electric car startup Fisker automotive is sub-manufacturing its Karma plug-in electric vehicle through Valmet Automotive in Finland.  Now thanks to a loan of $528.7M USD from the Department of Energy, Fisker is moving the focus of its production -- and the money and jobs that goes with it -- to the United States.

The move became official at a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware this morning.  Joined by Delaware's Governor, Jack Markell, and Vice President Joe Biden, Fisker's founder and CEO Henrik Fisker officially announced his company's plans to purchase a closed GM plant and repurpose it to produce his company's electric vehicles.

The plant was built by GM in 1947 and was last used to produce the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky, both of which ended production last spring.  It is currently owned by Motors Liquidation, the government-organized bankruptcy holding from GM that is seeking to sell off the company's remaining stale assets.  Fisker will get the plant at a bargain price of $18M USD, leaving plenty of its loan funding for the retooling, employment, and distribution costs.  The refurbishing and retooling of the plant is estimated to cost $175M USD and will take three years to fully complete, though partial production may start before that.

The plant sits on a spacious 142 acres of land and features over 3.2 million square feet of floor space.  Once retooled, it will be used to build a new, more-affordable plug-in that Fisker is currently cooking up, codenamed "Project Nina".  Fisker plans to release this new vehicle by 2012 and reach production levels of 75,000-100,000 units annually by 2014 which is well above current Karma production levels.  The company says that half the production will be sold domestically and approximately half of the production will be exported and sold overseas, under his company's current plan.  It is targeting a price of under $40,000 for the vehicle, after federal tax credits, ironically similar to the speculated price of the 2011 Chevy Volt, produced by GM.

Mr. Fisker praised the plan for the new plant.  He describes, "This is a major step toward establishing America as a leader of advanced vehicle technology. Wilmington is perfect for high quality, low volume production and will soon be the proud builder of world-class, fuel-efficient Fisker plug-in hybrids."

Although Fisker's current overseas production plans have caught some flak, more criticism may be raised over the plant's use of unionized labor.  The plant will employ 2,000 workers, mostly UAW members.  The decision to keep the plant unionized is a rather atypical choice for a startup auto firm.  The plant will also lead to the employment of approximately 3,000 supplier jobs in the U.S.

Gary Casteel, UAW director responsible for the plant, cheered the decision to keep the plant unionized, stating, "It gives me great pride to give UAW Local 435 workers the opportunity to partner with Fisker Automotive to create a greener America by building a plug-in hybrid car that will compete globally."

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RE: An EV Startup with Union Workers??
By Motoman on 10/27/2009 6:06:25 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. So much for Fiskar - may as well write them off now.

RE: An EV Startup with Union Workers??
By Cypherdude1 on 10/28/2009 3:57:25 AM , Rating: 2
Once retooled, it will be used to build a new, more-affordable plug-in that Fisker is currently cooking up, codenamed "Project Nina".
Despite what pundits are saying, there is a limited market for expensive EV's. With Chevy's Volt, Tesla and all the hybrids being made, not to mention California's own EV, you have to wonder just how many EV's Fisker can sell. There is demand for EV's, but I find it hard to believe all of these companies won't saturate the market. Moreover, you have to assume many consumers will wait for batteries, the primary EV component, to improve. I would. Right now we're only in the v1.5 stage for battery power. There was an article, possibly on DailyTech, which mentioned how engineers are combining lithium batteries with sulfur to TRIPLE their power.

RE: An EV Startup with Union Workers??
By ZimZum on 10/28/2009 8:33:30 AM , Rating: 4
Just because the labor force is still "Unionized" doesn't mean they have the same deal with Fisker as they had with GM. I can guarantee you their compensation package is completely different.

RE: An EV Startup with Union Workers??
By Chudilo on 10/28/2009 10:00:17 AM , Rating: 3
I second that. Union labor can be compensated according to performance rather then seniority.

RE: An EV Startup with Union Workers??
By mikefarinha on 10/28/2009 10:58:57 AM , Rating: 5
'Can be' but usually isn't.

RE: An EV Startup with Union Workers??
By Motoman on 10/28/2009 11:27:59 AM , Rating: 4
That's the point. A union could run in a totally responsible manner, working for the best interest of both it's workers and it's employer. The problem is that essentially never happens...I for one am pretty tired of seeing companies and whole towns destroyed by moronic union antics. And the accompanying loss of jobs to foreign lands.

RE: An EV Startup with Union Workers??
By Mitch101 on 10/28/2009 1:04:11 PM , Rating: 2
There is probably supply reasons for going union. You cant sell cars if you cant get parts.

Im going to say people being employed is more important than unions right now even though the jobs are few years out.

I would hope that a huge lesson is learned from Detroit although we all know union greed will try to get the better of them in the long run. Hopefully they can come to an agreement that doesn't run up the cost of the cars and make the business model fail.

I see future designed cars coming from more independent/smaller companies than from big company places like GM/Ford who give us what our grandfathers would design with very little changes from previous designs.

I would certainly love to see Detroit rebound but very little about the business model is sound to survive. Greed ruins both sides of the coin in Detroit and both act like they own the company. It will never work if both sides believes they earned the profits and drive a company to no profit when the demand is lost.

In 10-15 years the entire car company landscape will be much different than it is today. Really Its already started.

By Cypherdude1 on 10/29/2009 12:25:08 AM , Rating: 2
If anyone is wondering, this is the URL for the California EV company:

This is their brochure:

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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