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Fisker Karma  (Source:
A total of 26 employees were laid off

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) pulled the plug on a federal loan it provided to Fisker Automotive, forcing the automaker to stop work on a Delaware factory.

California-based Fisker Automotive, known for the $102,000 Karma plug-in and the Nina midsize sedan, received a total of $529 million in loans from DOE in April 2010. The loans were part of a program to progress development of high-tech vehicles, where Fisker received $169 million for Karma engineering and $359 million for Nina production. The loans were also meant to revamp a closed General Motors plant in Wilmington, Delaware for Fisker auto production. So far, Fisker has drawn down $193 million from its loans.

Fisker has been behind schedule on selling its first auto here in the U.S., and in May 2011, DOE blocked the loans previously provided to the automaker due to "unmet milestones." According to Damien LaVera, DOE only allows Fisker to use the loan if the auto company upholds its end of the deal and shows results. However, Fisker has been a little behind.

The lack of access to loans has affected work on the Delaware factory. In fact, work on the auto factory has now been halted, and 26 people were laid off.

"It's been frustrating that Fisker and the Department of Energy weren't able to come to terms on the revisions to the loan in time to avoid this," said Brian Selander, a spokesman for Delaware Governor Jack Markell. "I'd say the project is on hold while the two sides try to get things sorted out."

DOE seems to be a bit more cautious of who it provides its financial offerings to after the series of alternative energy failures through 2011 and 2012. In September 2011, Silicon Valley-based solar panel company Solyndra filed for bankruptcy after receiving a $535 million loan from DOE in 2009. Government officials reportedly warned the administration about Solyndra's viability back at that time, but these warnings were set aside to meet political deadlines.

In November 2011, Beacon Power, a company that creates flywheels to store power and increase grid efficiency by preventing blackouts, filed for bankruptcy after receiving a $43 million loan guarantee from DOE in August 2010.

Just last month, auto electric battery maker Ener1, whose EnerDel subsidiary received a $118.5 million DOE grant in August 2009, filed for bankruptcy.

Electric vehicles haven't had a great year, either. Last year, General Motors' Chevrolet Volt was heavily criticized after three Volts sparked or caught fire in a series of side-impact crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Fisker had some battery issues of its own as well back in December 2011, where over 200 Karma's were recalled.

Also, somewhat similar to Fisker's factory situation, an Indiana Think City EV plant has been sitting stagnant after failing to produce the Think City EVs, which are tiny two-seater EVs manufactured by Think Global.

Fisker CEO Henrik Fisker said the company sent 225 Karmas to dealers in December, with another 1,200 on the way.

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek

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By Keeir on 2/7/2012 7:26:18 PM , Rating: 2
But the people have a right to know these things. You seem to think it's fine for a Government agency to sit on a report for five months because it might look bad for the Government supported auto-makers new political flagship. That's not a situation I'm comfortable with. There's a clear conflict of interest here.

Just to be clear though... if the Government did not own shares of GM, you'd be perfectly fine with handling of the situation?

Huh? I've been in accidents and had cars totaled, and at no point did the fuel tank have to be drained as a precaution. If fuel isn't leaking, there is virtually no potential risk.

Haven't really been in a total car then huh? Read your owners manual. Your not even recommended to use roadside flares if your suspect fuel leakage... or emergency lights.

Normal cars just don't do that.

No. Normal cars have a risk of catching fire at ANY time. Including but not limited to sitting alone in a garage. All cars have electrical systems that a run on a battery. The presence of the charged battery creates a system that can catch fire under numerous, albeit unlikely, situations.

GM is now wielding steel plates around the battery to further secure it.

Complete and total PR move. This does not prove there was a problem. This proves that GM thought it was cheaper to weld plates to 6,000 batteries than convince people it was not a problem.

Why did it take 5+ months?

That's a short frame of time. Why does Toyota still not have an adequate response to the thousands of acceleration issues reported from 2000-2008.

Reclaimer, I really don't understand why you're having difficulty here.

A car caught fire outside of a normal testing procedure with unknown causes and conflicts. The testing agency contacted with the OEM to conduct an investigation into an anomaly that might potentially have been safety related. Instead of rushing to report or conclude data the Agency and the OEM choose to conduct further testing to outline the anomaly. At no point was it clear there was a public safety issue, as running you car full speed into a pole and then sitting in it for weeks is not an expected consumer usage of a car.

You can choose to bring politics into the issue if you want... but the above situation occurs -daily-. I wouldn't doubt there are thousands of issues right now similar to the above, many of them significant worse than the Volt issues.

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