Fisker Acquiring Former GM Delaware Plant for New Plug-in Hybrid ProductionBy John O'Dell October 27, 2009
Deal Could Open Employment Door For UAW Workers Laid Off When Plant Closed
By John O'Dell, Senior Editor
As just about the whole world was predicting all weekend, Fisker Automotive and the GM assets liquidator, Motors Liquidation Co., have done a deal in which start-up Fisker will buy the idled Boxwood Road assembly plant near Newport and Wilmington, Del., for production of a new plug-in hybrid.
Fisker, based in Southern California, received a $528.7million federal loan last month to help pay for a production plant and plant refurbishing costs, among other things.
Fisker said the letter of intent calls for it to pay $18 million for the plant if its evaluation of the 52-year-old facility doesn't uncover insurmountable problems. The deal is scheduled to close in four months and Fisker then would spend an additional $175 million refurbishing and outfitting the plant to produce the new plug-in starting in late 2012.
Other details of the deal weren't immediately available, although it sounds as though Fisker apparently will use at least some of the UAW workers laid off by General Motors when the Boxwood Road factory - also called the Wilmington Assembly plant - was idled earlier this year as part of GM's short-lived bankruptcy reorganization, in which underutilized facilities were closed and turned over to the newly created liquidation company for disposal.
It's unclear whether the plant would be unionized - a costly move for a nascent car maker - but in a statement released just before the formal announcement this morning, UAW director Gary Casteel said that the deal gives "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."
Fisker Automotive, founded by noted BMW and Aston Martin auto designer Henrik Fisker, is about to launch its first car, the $89,000 extended-range hybrid Fisker Karma, and plans to follow up in 2012 with a more affordable, family-oriented (albeit well-to-do families) plug-in hybrid sedan that will cost an estimated $47,400 before tax credits and other incentives.
While the Karma is being assembled in Finland, Fisker has always said that his company's second car, code-named Project NINA, would be made in the U.S.
Word of the deal with GM leaked out over the weekend but it still is being announced formally this morning in a ceremony attended by Vice President Joe Biden - former senior Senator from Delaware - and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.
The Delaware plant is a prime location for Fisker, which plans to build 75,000- 100,000 cars a year and to sell at least half in Europe.
Its location will make it less expensive for the company to ship cars to Europe than if it were in the American Midwest or West, and it is in a location populated by several thousand former GM assembly workers, engineers and others who could provide the basis for an already well-trained workforce.
Fisker has said the plant could employ as many as 3,000 workers at peak production.
CEO Henrik Fisker said in a statement that the plant "is perfect for high-quality, low volume production..." and represents a "major step toward establishing America as a leader of advanced vehicle technology."