News Column

Fisker Automotive Lays Off PR Staff

April 5, 2013

Fisker Automotive has laid off its public relations staff and other employees today, according to a source familiar with the company, another sign of deepening problems at the beleaguered electric car maker.

No one is answering phones at the Anaheim, Calif., office this morning.

The layoffs come on the heels of the high profile resignation of company founder and executive chairman Henrik Fisker, 49, last month over disagreements with the direction the company was taking in terms of its business strategy.

The start-up company that makes luxury plug-in hybrids has had a rough road since it was founded in 2007.

There was a series of at least three recalls of the Karma luxury sedan, a $103,000 plug-in hybrid made in Finland by contract assembler Valmet Automotive.

Karma production was halted altogether last year when battery supplier A123 Systems filed for bankruptcy. A123 has sold most of its assets to Wanxiang Group, a large Chinese auto parts supplier.

Plans to build Fisker vehicles at a former General Motors plant in Wilmington, Del., despite a groundbreaking in 2009, never came to fruition.

Even Mother Nature exacted a toll when more than 300 Karmas awaiting delivery were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy last year and the insurance company denied coverage. A lawsuit and settlement followed.

The launch of a more affordable mid-size sedan, the Atlantic, also was delayed as the company has struggled to secure financing. Then two Chinese automakers who were reported to be interested in investing in Fisker decided not to make an offer.

Fisker received $529 million from the Department of Energy to develop the Atlantic, but after the Karma's rough launch and slow sales, the DOE froze the $336 million in untapped loans.

Fisker has sold about 2,000 Karmas worldwide and Consumer Reports panned it.

Tony Posawatz is the automaker's third CEO in a year, joining last summer from his previous job as head of the electric vehicle program at General Motors.

Last fall, Posawatz said Fisker had raised more than $1.2 billion in private equity since 2007.


(c)2013 the Detroit Free Press

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: Copyright Detroit Free Press (MI) 2013

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