Ex-GM executive joins Chinese in Fisker bid

Bob Lutz and China’s Wanxiang Group in bid to take over troubled troubled car firm

Wed, May 22, 2013, 15:41

A boutique carmaker led by former General Motors executive Bob Lutz and China’s largest auto parts supplier made an offer this month to buy cash-strapped “green” car company Fisker Automotive.

VL Automotive and China’s Wanxiang Group are looking to gain control of Fisker through a prepackaged bankruptcy. This comes alongside a separate push by investors in Europe and Hong Kong, including billionaire Richard Li, to buy out the U.S. Department of Energy’s position in Fisker.

Sources cautioned that efforts to revive Fisker are ongoing and may fall apart. They spoke on a condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

Fisker, maker of the $100,000-plus Karma plug-in hybrid, has faced a barrage of negative news this year while it scrambles to find a buyer and preserve cash. Fisker hired bankruptcy advisers and fired most of its workforce this year.

The automaker, which has not built a car since July, is also struggling to repay its federal loan. Last month, Republican lawmakers grilled company co-founders Henrik Fisker and Barny Koehler over the automaker’s finances.

Henrik Fisker left the automaker over “major disagreements” with the company’s executive team in March. Since then he’s been in touch with various investor groups to discuss a potential role for himself in car company should Fisker finds a new owner, sources said.

Henrik Fisker founded the company with Barny Koehler in 2007 and together they raised about $1.2 billion in private funds. In 2009, Fisker won a $529 million US Government loan in 2009 as part of a US government programme to promote advanced vehicles.

Fisker got $192 million in funds before the DOE froze Fisker’s credit line in mid-2011 after Fisker missed key performance targets. The resulting cash crunch prompted Fisker to overhaul its management team and look for buyers.