Fisker automotive answers questions about the DOE loan

There’s a lot of chatter on the internet about Fisker automotive getting a Department of Energy (DOE) loan. We went to the source, Fisker Automotive it’self. Russel Datz, spokesperson for Fisker Automotive, answered the questions for drivingthenation.com

The Department of Energy (DOE) has granted Fisker, an American automobile manufacturer in Anaheim, California, $529,000 to build a car in Uusikaupunk, Finland.

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The DOE approved two loans totaling $528.7M for Fisker to develop advanced technology vehicles that would lower dangerous emissions, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, make the US competitive in the global marketplace and create jobs in America.  These loans have accelerated Fiskers plans, enabling the company to grow our American jobs base to more than 700 full time and contract employees at our California headquarters and Wilmington, Delaware factory.  The majority of that amount is specifically for development of Fiskers next generation Electric Vehicle with extended range (aka Project Nina), which will be built in Fisker Automotives factory in Wilmington.

It is a start-up endeavor, starting from scratch with taxpayer money.

Fisker Automotive is funded mostly by private equity “ nearly $700M.

Appropriately, the car is called a “Fisker.” The over a half billion grant is on condition Fisker will build a manufacturing plant for a smaller Fisker in Delaware. Howe’ver, the plant is at least a year behind in it’s construction; and as Fisker announced, it’s car failed to meet an energy-efficiency standard, which will delay the construction of the Delaware plant until 2013.
The 3.2 million square foot plant, previously abandoned, is currently being refurbished and will be on line in time to build Fiskers next generation vehicles.  The Karma has been rated 10 out of 10 for efficiency by the EPA and achieved incredible fuel efficiency and low emission levels in independent tests.  Its efficiency ratings are not at all related to plant construction timing.

The Fisker is a hybrid, fueled by both an electric charge and gasoline. The car is lauded by Fisker and the government. It is stylish and boasts a rate of acceleration which surpasses other hybrids. Howe’ver, car experts doubt it is a true sports car. With it’s heavy battery load, like other hybrids, it can negotiate straight-away highways; but it cannot not maneuver hairpin turns at high speeds, which is the mark of a sports cars. Plans called to have 4,000 Fiskers on the road in the United States by now. There are currently 40, and because of the price tag, ($98,500 and upwards) they are demonstrated and shown off by such people as Hollywood movie stars. The market place is extremely limited.

Actually, global media reviews lauded the Karma for it’s performance and handling characteristics.  Top Gear magazine, one of the most influential auto publications in the world, named the Karma it’s ˜Luxury Car of the Year, the first time the European critics have ever given the award to an American car.  The Karma has also received Automobile magazines Design of the Year award.

Forbes Magazine tested the Fisker and declared it a “flop.” On the ratio of the input of fossil fuel – to service the gasoline engine – the Fisker has the city fuel economy equivalent to a Ford Explorer.

According to the EPA the Karma gets 52 MPGe combined “ more than twice the rating of competitive luxury cars.  Forbes has not yet test driven a Karma.

In comparison to the Chevrolet Volt, the Fisker has electric driving range of 32 miles while the Volt’s range is 35 miles. Motorweek Magazine states the difference between a Fisker and Volt is with the Fisker the buyer gets leather seats. The Volt is $60,000 cheaper than the Fisker. If one wants a true sports car, the Porsche Panamera is $20,000 cheaper than the Fisker with a gasoline mileage of 24 mpg.

The Karma is competitively priced with other luxury cars like the Mercedes CLS and S-Class, Audi A8 and Porsche Panamera S, and equipped accordingly.
Each purchaser of a Fisker receives a $7,500 tax credit.

Editor’s note: All cars that meet the criteria get a $7,500 tax credit, not just Fisker cars.

Why the government is putting large amount of money into the development of Fisker is unclear. It does not meet environmental standards and the extremely small market is limited to the very wealthy. Howe’ver, if for whatever reason, the government craved to develop a car similar to the Fisker, they could fund American, German or Japanese companies to build it in America with American labor. It would mean hundreds of high-paying American jobs.

The Karma is a technology leader that will pave the way for more affordable vehicles with the same, if not better, emissions and economy.  In 1995 a flat screen TV cost $15,000, adjusted.  The fact that there were people who could afford that price then enables us to buy one with better quality and functionality for $500 today.

These companies situate in the United States already have the technicians and factories and for over a quarter of a billion dollars, they would be most obliging. An explanation may be that of the government’s twenty massive loan guarantees, fifteen were awarded to corporations which bundled large contributions to the President’s presidential campaign.

The key investor in Fisker is Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, an investment firm, which bundled $2 million dollars for President Obama’s 2008 election campaign. Al Gore is a partner in the firm.

The $25B ATVM fund from which Fisker was awarded the loan was enacted by Congress under the Bush administration.

Editor: The statements/questions come from Washington Post articles and Robert Chapman: Mileage and Jobs: Fisker, Mileage and Jobs: Fisker, Robert Chapman, EWI EXCLUSIVE

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.