* Lutz, Wanxiang make up one of at least two groups seeking Fisker
* Co was valued around $2 bln during the launch of flagship Karma
* Another team of investors looking to buy DOE note-sources
By Deepa Seetharaman and Norihiko Shirouzu
DETROIT/TOKYO, May 22 (Reuters) - A team including former General Motors Co executive Bob Lutz and China’s largest parts maker is looking to buy Fisker Automotive for $20 million, a fraction of the “green” car company’s estimated worth almost a year and a half ago.
People familiar with the matter said on Wednesday that VL Automotive, a venture between Lutz and industrialist Gilbert Villarreal, and China’s Wanxiang Group submitted the bid earlier this month to buy Fisker through a prepackaged bankruptcy deal.
This is one of at least two investor groups looking to gain control of Fisker, which has not built a car since July. Earlier this year, the company hired bankruptcy advisers and fired the bulk of its staff, while continuing to seek a buyer.
VL Automotive, Lutz and Pin Ni, president of Wanxiang’s U.S. division, declined to comment. Representatives for Fisker did not immediately comment.
The $20 million bid is a far cry from Fisker’s estimated value during the launch of its flagship Karma plug-in hybrid sports car. In December 2011, Fisker told prospective investors that its total capitalization was “approaching” $2 billion, according to an investor document filing obtained by Reuters.
In the spring of 2012, Fisker competed a fundraising round that valued the company at $2.2 billion, according to regulatory filings analyzed by venture capital data provider VC Experts.
VL Automotive is building a car called the Destino, which has the shell of a Fisker Karma with the powertrain of a Chevrolet Corvette. Wanxiang bought Fisker’s battery supplier out of bankruptcy, a deal that was approved by a U.S. judge this year.
Since its founding in 2007, Fisker has raised $1.2 billion in private funds. The company won a $529 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan, but the department halted payments in mid-2011 after Fisker missed certain performance milestones.
Fisker now owes the DOE about $171 million in loans. A separate team of investors is looking to buy out the DOE’s position in Fisker at a discount, sources previously said. [ID: nL2N0E21J9]
The DOE declined to comment.