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Fisker Automotive to retool GM plant to make electric cars

Oct 27, 2009 - Steve Gelsi - MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Electric-car start-up Fisker Automotive said Tuesday it'll invest nearly $200 million to buy and retool a former General Motors plant in Wilmington, Del., facing off against Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and other big manufacturers in the nascent market for electric vehicles.

Topped off by an appearance from Vice President Joe Biden at the plant in Delaware, Fisker Automotive said it hopes to support 2,000 factory jobs and more than 3,000 vendor and supplier jobs by 2014 at the site, with a production target of 75,000 to 100,000 vehicles per year.

The Irvine, Calif.-based company will spend about $18 million to buy the plant from Motors Liquidation Co. and then spend an additional $175 million to retool the plant to begin production in 2012.

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"This is a major step toward establishing America as a leader of advanced vehicle technology," said Henrik Fisker, the firm's chief executive.

Fisker Automotive received $529 million in government-loan guarantees in September to develop plug-in vehicles, after breaking into the business as the maker of a luxurious, $80,000 electric car with a range of up to 300 miles. That car, called the Karma, is expected to go on sale in 2010.

Looking to build a car for the under-$40,000 market, Fisker Automotive now hopes to bring is entrepreneurial skills to bear on a mass-market vehicle, even as others in the auto business take aim at the same sector.

Besides the Japanese car giants Honda (HMC 32.37, +0.57, +1.79%) and Toyota (TM 80.08, +2.35, +3.02%) , fellow American start-up Tesla Motors also plans to compete in the category, along with expected entries from the remaining domestic manufacturers.

Fisker said plug-in hybrid cars will help lower the country's dependence on foreign energy by eliminating the need for 42 million barrels of oil by 2016. They also will offset 8 million tons of carbon-dioxide emissions.

The chief executive previously worked as design director for Aston Martin and president and chief executive of BMW's DesignworksUSA.

Built by General Motors in 1947, the Wilmington plant now occupies 3.2 million square feet on 142 acres of land. More than 8.5 million cars have been manufactured there, including the Pontiac Streamliner, the original Chevrolet Impala, the Saturn L-Series and the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn SkyT roadsters.

Steve Gelsi is a reporter for MarketWatch in New York.


Updated: 2016/06/30

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