| DETROIT, March 27
DETROIT, March 27 Fisker Automotive, which has
not made a vehicle since July, placed its U.S. workforce on
furlough this week as part of its effort to keep costs low while
it continues to search for a strategic partner, the U.S.
automaker said on Wednesday.
"This is a common practice, particularly in the automotive
industry, to manage costs and operations based on current
activity levels and commercial requirements," Fisker, which has
just over 200 U.S. employees, said in a statement.
The move comes about a month before the cash-strapped
company, which launched the Karma plug-in hybrid in late 2011,
faces a loan payment to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher declined to reveal the
amount of the loan payment due in late April. The DOE could not
be immediately reached for comment.
The automaker said it continues to seek an investor to help
build its second model, the Atlantic plug-in hybrid. But the
company has faced many challenges this month, including the
abrupt resignation of its founder, Henrik Fisker, over "several
major disagreements" with top management.
Fisker's efforts to find a strategic partner in China have
also stalled in recent weeks. Fisker had held talks with two
Chinese automakers, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, the owner of
Sweden's Volvo, and Dongfeng Motor Group Co.
The company was founded in 2007 and drummed up about $1.2
billion in private financing. In 2009, Fisker also won a $529
million federal loan as part of an Obama administration program
to spur advanced vehicle development.
But Fisker's delay in bringing the Karma to market prompted
the DOE to freeze the loan, which Fisker was relying on to pay
for Atlantic. The resulting cash crunch was exacerbated by the
bankruptcy of its chief battery supplier, A123 Systems, now
owned by Wanxiang Group, China's largest auto parts maker.
Fisker's obligations to the U.S. government as part of its
federal loan presented a roadblock in its discussions with
Geely, people familiar with the matter have said.