Fisker lays off workers before Nina production begins

The electric car maker, which was granted a $529-million loan by the U.S government, has laid off employees before producing one vehicle.

February 7, 2012   by The Canadian Press

DOVER, Del.—Electric car maker Fisker Automotive, the company that received a half-billion-dollar loan from the federal government, has laid off workers in Delaware and California.

The layoffs include 26 workers at a former General Motors plant Fisker retooled to manufacture its ‘Nina’ plug-in hybrid sedan. Another 40 contractors and employees who were working in design and development of Fisker’s Karma luxury car in Anaheim, Calif., also have been cut.

The layoffs come as Fisker is seeking to renegotiate its loan agreement with the Department of Energy (DOE).

Fisker has received $193 million of the $529 million DOE loan, mostly for work on the Karma, which sells for about $100,000. The introduction of the Karma was delayed because of regulatory issues and battery pack problems prompting a voluntary safety recall by Fisker.

The DOE made loan availability for the Nina project contingent on Fisker meeting development and sales milestones for the Karma, which the company missed.

Fisker has said it expects to eventually employ more than 2,000 people at the Delaware plant, where production of the Nina was to begin later this year, with sales starting next year. The company reported in October that more than 100 workers were reconfiguring the plant.

In 2009, Vice-President Joe Biden headed joined Fisker officials in Delaware in announcing the resurrection of the former GM plant. Delaware’s Council on Development Finance approved a $12.5 million loan to Fisker to help build the Nina in Delaware.

The loan will become a grant if Fisker spends at least $175 million renovating the old GM facility and shows that it created 2,495 jobs in five years.

The state also agreed to provide a $9-million grant to help Fisker pay utility bills while the former GM plant is retrofitted and restarted. About half of that grant has been used to date.

Fisker said much of the engineering, design and development work on Nina is complete and it expects to ramp up operations again quickly.

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