Car Company Gets U.S. Loan, Builds Cars In Finland In Billion-Dollar Gamble on Tesla and Fisker, Some Worry About A Second Solyndra
With the approval of the Obama administration, an electric car company
that received a $529 million federal government loan guarantee is
assembling its first line of cars in Finland, saying it could not find a
facility in the United States capable of doing the work.
Vice President Joseph Biden heralded the Energy Department's $529
million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a
bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs. But two
years after the loan was announced, the job of assembling the flashy
electric Fisker Karma sports car has been outsourced to Finland.
"There was no contract manufacturer in the U.S. that could actually
produce our vehicle," the car company's founder and namesake told ABC
News. "They don't exist here."
Henrik Fisker said the U.S. money so far has been spent on engineering
and design work that stayed in the U.S., not on the 500 manufacturing
jobs that went to a rural Finnish firm, Valmet Automotive.
"We're not in the business of failing; we're in the business of winning.
So we make the right decision for the business," Fisker said. "That's
why we went to Finland."
The loan to Fisker is part of a $1 billion bet the Energy Department has
made in two politically connected California-based electric carmakers
producing sporty -- and pricey -- cutting-edge autos. Fisker Automotive, backed by a powerhouse venture capital firm
whose partners include former Vice President Al Gore, predicts it will
eventually be churning out tens of thousands of electric sports sedans
at the shuttered GM factory it bought in Delaware. And Tesla Motors,
whose prime backers include PayPal mogul Elon Musk and Google
co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, says it will do the same in a
massive facility tooling up in Silicon Valley.
An investigation by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity's
iWatch News that will air on "Good Morning America" found that the DOE's
bet carries risks for taxpayers, has raised concern among industry
observers and government auditors, and adds to questions about the way
billions of dollars in loans for smart cars and green energy companies
have been awarded. Fisker is more than a year behind rolling out its
$97,000 luxury vehicle bankrolled in part with DOE money. While more are
promised soon, just 40 of its Karma cars (below) have been manufactured
and only two delivered to customers' driveways, including one to movie
star Leonardo DiCaprio. Tesla's SEC filings reveal the start-up has lost
money every quarter. And while its federal funding is intended to help
it mass produce a new $57,400 Model S sedan, the company has no
experience in a project so vast. (Continues here)