Fisker Automotive Buys Plant from 'Old' GMBy Bill Visnic October 27, 2009
Fisker Automotive, the new-age startup company aiming to sell an expensive and high-tech extended-range electric vehicle next year, confirmed it has purchased an assembly plant in Wilmington, DE, from Motors Liquidation Co., the entity holding the assets of the former General Motors Co.
Fisker said in a media release the company paid $18 million for the plant, which most recently build the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky 2-seat sportscars.
That's a great price to acquire what is essentially a fully functional auto assembly plant with a relatively new paint shop, one of the costliest areas of investment in any auto-assembly operation.
Fisker said it will invest another $175 million to retool the plant to produce a still-under-development plug-in hybrid sedan targeted to sell for considerably less than the $87,000 Karma extended-range electric sport sedan Fisker plans to begin selling next year.
The Karma will be built in Finland by specialist vehicle-assembly company Valmet Automotive.
Fisker, headquartered in Irvine, Calif., has yet to sell a car. The company said it has more than 1,000 orders for the Karma, whose driveline arrangement is similar to another highly anticipated new-age vehicle, General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Volt.
The Volt and the Karma are designed primarily to be driven on battery power for 40 miles or so. If the driver's needs exceed the batteries' capacity, a small gasoline engine - which is not connected to the drive wheels - engages to generate electricity for the vehicle's drive motors and to recharge the batteries if the engine's full output is not needed for propulsion. Fisker says that operating in this fashion, the Karma has a total driving range of some 300 miles.
Fisker is being seeded with a $528-million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, a $25-billion fund earmarked to assist automakers in developing a new generation of more fuel-efficient vehicles and to retool assembly sites to build them. The company's CEO is Henrik Fisker, an illustrious designer for BMW AG other companies.
Edmunds.com's Green Car Advisor also reports Fisker Automotive intends to use United Auto Workers union labor for the plant. Under GM, UAW local 435 staffed the Wilmington plant. - Bill Visnic, senior contributing editor
Photo: A Pontiac Solstice roadster under construction at the former GM assembly plant in Wilmington, DE (courtesy General Motors Co.)