Orange County Business Journal

Fisker Plans Tech Center for Atlantic Model

Chris Casacchia Thursday, November 15, 2012

Anaheim-based luxury hybrid automaker Fisker Automotive Inc. is scouting locations in the Midwest to set up a technical center for the roll-out of its second model the Fisker Atlantic.

The company is eyeing possible locations in southeastern Michigan, “closer to key component suppliers and low-emission technical expertise” in the heart of the U.S. automotive industry.

The plant will also be considerably closer than the company’s headquarters to its intended production plant in Wilmington, Delaware, which Fisker acquired for $18 million in 2010.

The technical center, which will support final development and engineering, is scheduled to open in the spring.

“This important step signals our commitment to bringing the Fisker Atlantic to market as soon as we can,” said Fisker Chief Executive Tony Posawatz.

A significant amount of components for the Atlantic have already been designed and the center will spearhead final product development, component readiness and production launch, the company said.

The company previously had a technical center in Pontiac, Michigan, from fall 2008 through spring 2010 as it neared final development on the Karma.

Fisker has delivered more than 1,500 Karmas, which feature an advanced power train that combines an electric motor with a gas-powered engine and have a base price of $103,000.

The Atlantic is expected to sell for about $50,000 and is widely seen as a make or break model for Fisker and a bellwether for the electric-car industry. The hybrid four-cylinder features four seats, a longer wheelbase and more trunk space than the Karma.

The Atlantic will compete against the BMW 3 and 5 series, Mercedes C and E class, Jaguar XF and Audi S4/A6, according to the company.

Fisker plans to announce the final location of the technical center and staffing levels early next year.

The company has pushed back the release of the Atlantic to at least 2014 amid ongoing negotiations with the federal government to disperse the rest of its $529 million loan. It received $193 million of the loan, with the remaining $336 million subject to renegotiation after it missed production and sales milestones laid out by the Department of Energy for the Karma.

Thursday’s announcement may quell some cash concerns about Fisker, which has raised more than $1.2 billion in private investment.

The company has had plenty of ups and downs since its inception in 2007. It benefited from a lot of hype at its outset, picking up numerous design and automotive awards for its flagship Karma.

In the run-up to the presidential election it took plenty of criticism from politicians bemoaning government subsidies to the fledgling clean technology sector and was singled out in a few debates.

A battery defect that was discovered earlier this year is expected to eventually affect most Karma owners and future buyers.

Late last year its Waltham, Mass.-based battery supplier A123 Systems Inc. warned of a potential coolant leak from misaligned hose clamps that led to the recall of 239 Karmas—and more bad press.

A123 filed for bankruptcy reorganization last month and plans to sell its assets.