UPDATE 1-Fisker Atlantic sedan production pushed back at least two years

Mon Oct 15, 2012 8:16pm EDT

By Deepa Seetharaman

Oct 15 (Reuters) - Fisker Automotive, the hybrid sports-car startup backed by venture investors and the U.S. government, aims to start production of its second model in late 2014 or 2015, the automaker said on Monday, at least two years later than initially planned.

The Atlantic, a mid-size gasoline-electric sedan, is slated to enter pre-production in 2014, according to slides prepared by Fisker for an investor presentation.

"The Atlantic is really the volume car that begins to build growth," Chief Executive Tony Posawatz said during a conference call with investors and analysts. "It creates a business model that is one where we can really generate cash in the future."

The presentation was the first time Fisker disclosed a production timetable for the Atlantic, whose target base price is $55,000. The car will underpin Fisker's future models, which may include sport-utility vehicles and crossovers.

Fisker also may "engage with some discussions with partners to use this platform, use this technology, which very few people have," Posawatz added.

The Atlantic is essential for Fisker to regain its credibility after delays and quality issues hurt the launch of its $100,000-plus Karma flagship sedan.

Fisker was also dealt a blow in February when the U.S. Department of Energy froze the bulk of its $529 million loan to Fisker due to delays in launching the Karma.

Posawatz and Chief Financial Officer Jim Yost are part of a slate of new executives hired recently to spearhead Fisker's turnaround. Fisker has raised $1.2 billion from private investors since it was founded in 2007.

"We're looking at the next phase of our investment and progression as a company to restart the (Atlantic) program in earnest," Posawatz told investors and analysts on Monday.

Earlier this month, Posawatz said Fisker was in talks with potential strategic partners to cut costs and raise money to build the Atlantic. The company is also laying the groundwork to go public, he added.

PARTNERSHIPS TO CUT COSTS

About 90 percent of the parts in the Atlantic have been engineered. Fisker is in talks with potential suppliers and would be interested in partnerships with major automakers to buy vehicle components at a lower cost, according to the presentation.

Production of the Atlantic had been slated for a former General Motors plant in Wilmington, Delaware, which Fisker bought for about $20 million in 2010.

Those plans were put on hold after the DOE froze its loan, raising the possibility that the car could be built outside the United States. The company has not yet confirmed the site of the Atlantic's production, Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher said.

During Monday's presentation, Yost said Fisker has done a lot of work to prepare and clean the Delaware plant and that capacity inside the plant could be used by Fisker suppliers.

"This is the vehicle that we expect to be our mass-produced vehicle and as a result of that we wanted to make sure it was located in the United States," Yost told investors about the Atlantic.

He added that the plant had more capacity than Fisker needs, but "we think that's an opportunity for some of our suppliers to come in, co-locate with us and really provide a manufacturing hub for the next generation of products that we produce, not just the Atlantic itself, but also future products."

Ormisher declined to comment on the presentation.