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Report: Fisker Automotive Sold To Hong Kong Billionaire Richard Li

Soulskill posted about 9 months ago | from the return-on-investment dept.

Government 35

cartechboy writes "It looks like an investor group led by Hong Kong tycoon (and early Fisker investor) Richard Li is the likely winner of a government loan owed by Fisker Automotive, the dormant maker of plug-in hybrid sports cars. Buying the loan would allow Li to try and restructure the company even as it's still at risk for bankruptcy. The originally company won a $529 million government loan in 2009, took venture capital investment, and created a lot of buzz around its flagship car, the $100,000 Karma plug-in hybrid. But the company had delays launching the car, struggled financially and has not built any cars since July of 2012. Is Li the new savior?"

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35 comments

If he can get reliable suppliers, then maybe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45165515)

One of the big problems Karma had was getting reliable suppliers for their parts, they didn't have the presence to get what they wanted

Re:If he can get reliable suppliers, then maybe. (2, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45165579)

One of the big problems Karma had was getting reliable suppliers for their parts, they didn't have the presence to get what they wanted

Another big problem: People shelling out $100K for a car want something fast and obscene that won't burst into flames upon getting a bit damp. [carbuzz.com]

At least Ferrari can pull off 2 out of 3.

Re:If he can get reliable suppliers, then maybe. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45165707)

Getting a bit damp, huh? That sounds bad! Let's read.

"Sixteen Karmas and one Toyota Prius plug-in caught fire separately while parked in the port terminal in Newark after being completely submerged under saltwater as a result of the storm. These were a small fraction of the 330 total Karmas parked in the port, to say nothing of the more than 2,000 Prius plug-ins, but it was still only plug-in vehicles which caught fire."

Liar.

Re:If he can get reliable suppliers, then maybe. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45165855)

Exactly. A Ferrari 458 will only burst into flames [bbc.co.uk] when it's warm and dry, because they used flammable adhesives.

Re:If he can get reliable suppliers, then maybe. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45165869)

A bit damp? Try drenched with salt water, enough to submerge them. That'll ruin any number of cars, as people who bought salvaged vehicles after hurricanes often learned to their sorrow.

And it was a short-circuit in a standard 12V battery, which could have happened with gas vehicles too.

As reasons not to buy a model of vehicle go, that's not a good one. Unless you're living in the universe of Jabberjaw, and need a submersible to travel around with your band and freak mutant shark.

Re:If he can get reliable suppliers, then maybe. (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 9 months ago | (#45166821)

One of the big problems Karma had was getting reliable suppliers for their parts, they didn't have the presence to get what they wanted

Another big problem: People shelling out $100K for a car want something fast and obscene that won't burst into flames upon getting a bit damp.

At least Ferrari can pull off 2 out of 3.

Then there were the images of brand new Fisker cars in port [jalopnik.com] after Hurricane Sandy did its thing.

Sure it wasn't the lithium-ion batteries that caused it (it was a short on the 12V system) to catch on fire, but still, you can see in the background other brand new cars in the same port survived, who all have 12V systems as well.

It goes beyond shoddy parts to end up with a name associated with cars that catch fire when they get wet, to be honest. I don't know about you, but the number of cases of this happening is far from random.

Heck, in the meantime it took Tesla years before the first flaming car, and that happened because of an accident and everyone still made it out safely without incident. (The Fiskers seem to be completely consumed...)

Re:If he can get reliable suppliers, then maybe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45167149)

Then there were the images of brand new Fisker cars in port [jalopnik.com] after Hurricane Sandy did its thing.

You mean the exact thing the person you replied to was talking about?

Sure it wasn't the lithium-ion batteries that caused it (it was a short on the 12V system) to catch on fire, but still, you can see in the background other brand new cars in the same port survived, who all have 12V systems as well.

It goes beyond shoddy parts to end up with a name associated with cars that catch fire when they get wet, to be honest. I don't know about you, but the number of cases of this happening is far from random.

Heck, in the meantime it took Tesla years before the first flaming car, and that happened because of an accident and everyone still made it out safely without incident. (The Fiskers seem to be completely consumed...)

Because it was one battery in one of the Fisker Karma's that had a short, and it was near all the other Fisker Karmas. One incident, among many, and all of those other cars were likely ruined as well. Had the one Karma been nearer the other car's, then they would get damaged as well.

Anybody making an association from that incident is a thoughtless stooge to the media. Who should itself be blamed for running with the story in the way they did.

But it's not their job to actually report the truth, is it?

Grammar alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45165631)

Buying the loan would allow Li to try and restructure the company

It's "try to restructure". I realize that you hear this a lot in spoken word, but it doesn't belong in writing. Ultimately it makes no sense: what exactly is he trying if he tries AND does something else?

Re:Grammar alert (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45165775)

Li himself wrote the summary, and English is not his first language. Restructuring in this case means profiting off of firing people and killing jobs, just like working-class champion Mitt Romney does for a living. And when you have as much money is Romney does, you can buy binders full of women. White women, Black women, Hispanic women, and sometimes all three at once.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Is it better for all of them to lose their jobs? (2)

daninaustin (985354) | about 9 months ago | (#45165903)

If you have to fire half the company, isn't that better than all of them losing their jobs? Making a profit while keeping some of those jobs going is a good thing.

Re:Grammar alert (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 9 months ago | (#45166567)

Think of it like a statement in computer language.

try && restructure

If the try is successful, the restructure will occur. If the try fails, the restructure will never happen.

Re:Grammar alert (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 9 months ago | (#45170423)

Buying the loan would allow Li to try and restructure the company

It's "try to restructure". I realize that you hear this a lot in spoken word, but it doesn't belong in writing.

Dang it. I would of made this same comment, but you beat me to it.

Re: Grammar alert (1)

Yggdrasil42 (662251) | about 9 months ago | (#45217849)

I see what you did there...

Asian Buyers Are Stepping up to luxury (4, Insightful)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 9 months ago | (#45165705)

Look where the billionaires are piling up and those who work for them trying to emulate their status.

Look where Burberry mushroomed their sales.

Li has it right.

Re:Asian Buyers Are Stepping up to luxury (2)

Richy_T (111409) | about 9 months ago | (#45167365)

Look where Burberry mushroomed their sales.

Chavs?

Re:Asian Buyers Are Stepping up to luxury (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 9 months ago | (#45167405)

Look where Burberry mushroomed their sales.

Chavs?

In my experience, chavs do seem to like cars that catch fire. If you parked in the chav zone near where I worked in the UK, there was a fair chance your car would be a burned out shell by the time you got back to it.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45165719)

"Is Li the new savior?" No, of course not. On a national scale, the question for the United States should be "Is $(anyone but the U.S.) the new savior of U.S. industry and innovation?" The U.S. has poured so much money overseas - both for selfless and ostensibly selfish ends - that the country now expects their international beneficiaries to help them out now, in their time of need. Learn the lesson, move on, and let's rebuild this country to something better than previous generations had. Stop waiting for help and let's start fixing the problems ourselves.

He's not the Messiah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45165759)

He's not the Messiah! He's a very naughty billionaire!

Fisker's a scam. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45165783)

I live in the US state where our politicians got suckered by Fisker.

Pretty much every regular taxpayer in the state knew it was a total boondoggle from the start, but somehow our duly elected officials still fell for it.

The Fisker business plan was a bad joke, and the punchline of that joke is that US states compete to give away money and tax exemptions to big business, so that it's a race to the bottom for US citizens. Companies will just relocate to wherever they can pay the least taxes (which means zero) and get the fattest "loan" that they can avoid repaying.

It's the willingness of US states to destroy their own tax bases that makes it work. They figure they can bleed the 99% forever I guess, but once they make everybody homeless and jobless the states are going to need another plan.

Re:Fisker's a scam. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45165983)

IIRC the original Fisker business plan was to have a modest number of cars built by Valmet in Finland (the folks who subcontract to Porsche) but then the US gov't leaned on Fisker to take the taxpayer's half-billion dollars, acquire an old GM plant on the East Coast and build in the US on a much larger scale. The result was a disaster while the original plan could likely have succeeded. The politicians didn't get suckered...they wanted to run the economy from the top down and have some nice photo opps with a sexy car.

Re:Fisker's a scam. (-1, Offtopic)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45166169)

The politicians... wanted to ruin the economy from the top down...

FTFY.

Re:Fisker's a scam. (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 9 months ago | (#45167433)

So you think the US government should be handing out hundreds of millions of dollars to Finnish car companies?

Of course they'll try to micro-manage when they're handing out hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars.

Re:Fisker's a scam. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45174699)

Try reading it again The gov't money showed up after the deal with the Finns was in place and radically altered the plan, from Finland to the US. A fine example of the golden rule: Those with the gold make the rules.

No one should have that much money. (-1)

fredrated (639554) | about 9 months ago | (#45165893)

A system that allows this concentration of resources is a failure. We need something new.

Re:No one should have that much money. (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 9 months ago | (#45167445)

A system that allows this concentration of resources is a failure. We need something new.

Yeah, let's make everyone equally poor except the Commissars in their Zil limos.

Oh, hang on, this is China, they already tried that.

Re:No one should have that much money. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45170843)

It's not China, it's Hong Kong. Learn something about the subject before you run your mouth.

Re:No one should have that much money. (1)

spartacus_prime (861925) | about 9 months ago | (#45167743)

Da, comrade.

Hong Kong erupts with anticipation! (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 9 months ago | (#45166039)

Flaming Fiskars!

LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45166315)

The owners took the money and cashed out leaving whats left of the company. Successful for them yes, but not for Fisker. Standard practice of today.

Terrible Car (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45166367)

If you're wondering why Fisker failed watch this owner's review:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnYuO0bGSTc

Compare that with the feedback from Tesla owners.

Re:Terrible Car (1)

foxalopex (522681) | about 9 months ago | (#45169415)

I've seen that video. I do have to hand it to the guy, if that was my car I wouldn't still be smiling and talking enthusiastically about it. I have a Chevy Volt which as a car is a whole lot better. :)

Richard Li... the savior? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45166449)

Richard Li Tzar Kai is a son Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing, and the spoiled brat isn't too widely loved in the territory. Part of it has to do with the outrageous swindles he's pulled off, like using his guanxi/connections (incl. the "regulators" and the pro-business regime) to take the once-mighty Hongkong Telecom private on the cheap, only to later refloat it as an intarweb-ish company, "Pacific Century CyberWorks". The name fooled stupid dotcom-boom idiots, but the company has never really had any real technology business other than the old telcom side of it...

Assholes with too much inherited money and dad's old boy network to play on... I'm sure he's got some similarly qualified mainland chinese CCP "princelings" lined up as partners for a new fancy "cybercar" startup.

The new savior? So far he's only ever cared about his own ass.

YRO? (1)

spartacus_prime (861925) | about 9 months ago | (#45167751)

Having not read the article, I am at a loss as to how this possibly falls under the realm of "YOUR RIGHTS ONLINE." Can somebody explain?

in b4 mods are trolling

Fisker failed for many reasons (4, Informative)

AaronW (33736) | about 9 months ago | (#45169581)

I have some familiarity with Fisker since my father bought a Karma. When I went to test drive it the car was in some weird mode the dealer couldn't get it out of and the entire time it went "bong bong bong" while driving. While the car handled nicely it felt heavy (it weighs 5300lbs). Acceleration was OK, not great. The interior of the car was small. Despite being such a large car it is labeled as a subcompact. The battery pack running down the center of the car takes up a huge amount of space.

As for being eco-friendly the car gets 21MPG on premium gasoline and is rated at 50MPG equivalent on electricity, basically no better than a Prius on electricity and far worse on gasoline.

The touch screen on the car is an unusable piece of crap, unfortunately you are forced to use it for just about everything. Whoever designed it designed it to look cool but not to be useable in a car. The colorscheme is grey on grey and it is hard to see during the day. If the sun hits it you can't see it at all. Also if you wear polarized sunglasses you can't see the display.

The touch panel has "haptic feedback", unfortunately you can't feel it while driving. Also, it requires a fair amount of force to select something. The icons are small and you have to hit them just right, something difficult to do while driving.

I tried unsuccessfully to talk my father out of the car. The car was basically what you would expect from an early prototype, not a production level car.

They replaced the Chinese-made electric motors twice in my father's car. The steel used for the rotors was too soft and the splines broke with the original motors. Afterwards there were some slipping problems which they eventually fixed using Lock-Tite. The car has had problems with the CAN bus due to interference and my father has had to have his car towed on numerous occasions.

There have also been major problems with the generator connected to the engine. The part linking the two tends to break and it cannot handle any misfiring by the engine.

The fires were also another major setback, due to a defective fan module.

Then there was the battery fiasco. Fisker promised selling at least 15,000 Karmas and relied entirely on A123 for the battery pack. Between Fisker's failure to sell the volume they promised and the battery defect A123 ended up bankrupt.

Fisker Automotive made a number of huge mistakes. The company was run like a large Detroit auto company which they were not. They spent money like water, ordering huge numbers of components ahead of time to make something on the order of 15,000 cars. Much of the manufacturing and design was pushed out to suppliers. The drive train was made by Quantum. The touch screen and software was also farmed out. The engine was GM. Fisker was basically an integrator.

Fisker also spent money like water. They went through over 1 billion dollars without a working factory to show for it. The top brass were from Detroit and they were used to dealing with big budgets like Detroit.

I will say that the Fisker Karma is a beautiful car and the interior is quite nice despite being cramped.

I ended up buying a Tesla model S.

Re:Fisker failed for many reasons (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 9 months ago | (#45172157)

The touch screen on the car is an unusable piece of crap, unfortunately you are forced to use it for just about everything. Whoever designed it designed it to look cool but not to be useable in a car.

This seems like a really bad trend in modern software/etc. The UIs are made to look cool, not to be functional. The software to control the home thermostat from my phone insists on running full screen, which means that using my password manager is a pain since the status bar is obscured (yes, there are hacks to get around this, but they shouldn't be necessary - really the only things that should consider being full screen are media apps). Cars have fancy touchscreens for functions that would be better accomplished with buttons. Applications and websites stick animation all over the place which looks cute the first 75 times, but becomes a real drag once you're trying to get work done, and so on.

Reminds me of when we were testing tablets at work. They're really cool for the first 20 minutes, and then you start to realize just how long it takes you to get anything done. For certain types of tasks they're GREAT, but as a general-purpose tool not so much (unless you basically turn them into desktops with keyboards/etc).

There is no such thing as a good UI concept or a bad UI concept. There is just fit-for-purpose, and not. Everything has its place.

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