There has been much news about the status of the Fisker assembly plant in Wilmington. We were promised good-paying manufacturing jobs by the California-based automobile company that claimed to be on the leading edge of green automotive technology. The company has never assembled any of its Karma model in the USA and has not assembled any cars anywhere in the past seven months.
Fisker and A123 were tied at the hip. A123 is the bankrupt battery supplier that is now approved for sale by the Federal Government to Wanxiang Group, the large Chinese automobile parts company. There is also a swirl of news that Fisker itself might get sold to Wanxiang, as Fisker is almost out of money and is certainly out of time.
Delaware will be left holding the bag on taxpayer money given to Fisker if Fisker does not make it, or if Wanxiang buys Fisker and does not intend to use the old GM site for its operations. The likelihood of Fisker making it as an independent company is extremely low. Tesla, the other California based Electric Car Company, has all but gobbled up the niche market for high end “green” cars and Fisker has been left in Tesla’s dust. Back in 2008 Tesla accused Fisker of stealing trade secrets in the design of the Karma. Now that Fisker is on life support Tesla need not concern itself about its failed competitor or the alleged stolen technology.
Fisker is a case study of a poorly managed company: It has had several CEOs leave in the past year; It offers a very expensive version of the Chevy Volt and has not delivered on its promise of a second- generation, more affordable, model. At the Detroit Auto Show a few weeks back, some well know auto industrialists stole the show by introducing the Destino, a Karma gutted of its hybrid electric drivetrain and batteries and replaced with a large 638 HP V8 engine used in the high performance Chevy Corvette ZR1.
In retrospect one can fault the management of Fisker for their incompetence. But one should certainly fault the government officials in Delaware and in the nation’s capital for going along for the ride so to speak. They should have been far more careful in lavishing money on individual companies in the green tech space. State governments do not have the technical competence to understand complex markets and complex technologies that may or may not become game changers. Even the US Department of Energy did not have this skill and has bet wrong over and over in the green space.
In the next month we should find out if Fisker offers itself for sale to Wanxiang or some other group. Over the next six months to a year we will find out if the eventual owner of Fisker will do anything with the old GM site or it will simply sit empty. We will also find out if Delaware has any hope of being repayed of the money given to Fisker. Right now we know that, up until today, the whole Fisker affair has been a fiasco.
Lindsay Leveen, “The Green Machine”, a guest contributor to the Caesar Rodney Institute, has worked with and consulted to major corporations in areas of energy deregulation, fuel cells, biotech, telecommunication, alternate fuels, power generation, transmission and distribution, as well as a variety of other process based technologies. Read Lindsay’s blog at www.GreenExplored.com.