By Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT, Sept 17 The U.S. Department of Energy
will auction next month a green technology loan made to Fisker
Automotive, a move that may allow the struggling company to
mount a comeback under a new owner.
Fisker, which has not built a vehicle in more than a year,
now owes $168 million to the DOE. The auction is scheduled for
Oct. 11 with bids due on Oct. 7, according to a notice posted on
Tuesday on govsales.gov, which tracks government asset sales.
The auction comes about a month after the DOE put its $50
million green-energy loan to the Vehicle Production Group LLC on
the block. The loan was later sold for $3 million.
"After exhausting any realistic possibility for a sale that
might have protected our entire investment, the department
announced today that we are auctioning the remainder of Fisker's
loan obligation, offering the best possible recovery for the
taxpayer," said Peter Davidson, executive director of the DOE's
loan program office, in a blog post.
The auction of the Fisker loan will allow the DOE to exit
its failed investment and pave the way for another group to gain
control of the company.
Fisker won a $529 million loan from the DOE in 2009 under a
U.S. loan program designed to promote advanced vehicles. But
after Fisker missed performance targets, the DOE froze its
credit line in June 2011 after Fisker drew down $192 million.
The company launched its flagship model, the $100,000-plus
Karma plug-in hybrid sports car, in late 2011, but the launch
was bedeviled by quality issues.
This year, Fisker missed payments on its DOE loan, fired
most of its workforce in April and hired bankruptcy advisers.
But investors have paid the company's day-to-day expenses,
allowing the startup to avert bankruptcy while seeking a buyer.
Investors have been pushing the DOE to sell its Fisker loan
for some time and at least three groups have sought to buy
Fisker. As of this spring, their offers ranged from $20 million
to as much as $30 million.
The groups include a Hong Kong-based group led by Fisker
investor Richard Li and German investment group Fritz Nols AG.
Chinese auto supplier Wanxiang Group and former General Motors
executive Bob Lutz also joined forces to try to buy Fisker.
In his blog post, Davidson said the DOE has recouped $28
million from Fisker. He added that bidders for Fisker must
submit business plans to promote U.S. manufacturing and
engineering of advanced powertrain vehicles.
"The department will require all bids to include a
commitment and business plan that promotes domestic
manufacturing capabilities and related engineering for advanced
technology vehicles here in the United States," he said.