Corrected: Fisker chairman backs 2012 vehicle goal

ATHERTON, Calif./LOS ANGELES Thu Nov 17, 2011 6:54pm EST

ATHERTON, Calif./LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fisker Automotive is on track to meet production goals for its electric sports cars in 2012 despite production delays that have sharply reduced the start-up carmaker's projected deliveries this year.

Production of Fisker's first vehicle, the plug-in hybrid Karma, was held up by faulty electrical harnesses and headlights, topped off by a flood that damaged the leather for its interior, according to Chairman Ray Lane.

"In production of a first vehicle, everything doesn't go the way you plan," Lane said in a recent interview. "Next year, we'll do exactly what we plan."

Fisker has long said it plans to sell 15,000 Karmas next year. But a spokesman later clarified the target was now 10,000 to 12,000.

Some in the industry have questioned whether the vehicle's price tag -- which starts at $96,000 -- will make that goal unattainable in a weak economy.

Fisker's fortunes have come under increased scrutiny in the two months since U.S. solar panel maker Solyndra filed for bankruptcy after securing a $535 million federal loan guarantee. Fisker itself received $529 million in loans from the U.S. Department of Energy under a program similar to the one that funded Solyndra's factory.

Lane's comments come more than a week after Fisker battery supplier A123 Systems Inc cut its 2011 revenue outlook 20 percent, blaming a sharp cut in fourth-quarter orders from Fisker. A123 would not say by how much orders were cut back, and Fisker had no comment on the delays at the time.

Lane, however, said Fisker would deliver 1,500 cars this year -- a lot fewer than the 7,000 vehicles the company said it would sell this year when it began production of the Karma in Finland in March.

The company is currently building about 150 vehicles a week, Lane said.

The major delays, according to Lane, stemmed from faulty electrical harnesses and headlights. The final straw, however, came when leather for the vehicle's interior was damaged in a flood.

"The leather was useless. We had 250 cars parked and waiting for leather," Lane said.

Fisker's Scottish leather supplier, Bridge of Weir Leather Co Ltd, was not available to comment.

Fisker delivered its first Karma to actor Leonardo DiCaprio over the summer. Lane, a managing partner at venture capital firm and Fisker investor Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, was the recipient of the company's second production vehicle [ID:nN1E76P2DY].

Lane has driven his Karma to work almost daily since July and said he has not yet had to fill up the gasoline engine. The Karma is a plug-in hybrid that can run for 32 miles before needing to be recharged. It also has a gasoline engine as a backup for when the battery runs out of charge.

Last week, A123 said it expected battery pack orders from Fisker to stay low through the first quarter of 2012, picking up in the second quarter and increasing throughout the year.

A123's expectations for Fisker's 2012 production are below the automaker's own.

"We are taking a reduced number from the 15,000 into our financial plan," A123 Chief Executive Dave Vieau said during an investor presentation in September, before the company reduced its revenue outlook.

Rather, Vieau said A123 was relying on 2012 sales projections from industry data firms J.D. Power and CSM, which he said ranged from about 5,000 to about 7,000 vehicles.

(Reporting by Sarah McBride and Nichola Groom; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

This corrects November 15 story's projection in fourth paragraph to clarify production of Karma models will be in the 10,000 to 12,000 range and not 15,000

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