Dongfeng among suitors for Fisker hybrid

Updated: 2013-02-18 08:04

By David Welch in New York and Zijing Wu in Hong Kong (China Daily)

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US hybrid carmaker Fisker Automotive is weighing several bids including a $350 million offer from Dongfeng Motor Corp that would give the Chinese carmaker majority control, said people with knowledge of negotiations.

Under the terms of its bid, Dongfeng would receive 85 percent of Fisker, said an insider who asked not to be named because the process is private.

"The company has received detailed proposals from multiple parties on different continents, which are now being evaluated by the company and its advisers," Roger Ormisher, a spokesman for Fisker, said in an e-mail. He declined to elaborate.

Teaming up with Dongfeng, based in the Hubei provincial capital Wuhan, could help Fisker in its turnaround and give it the funds to pay back loans from the US government.

The Anaheim, California-based maker of the Karma luxury rechargeable car had to halt production last year after its battery supplier A123 Systems filed for bankruptcy. It said on Feb 7 that it would begin making vehicles again "fairly soon".

Calls to Dongfeng's offices in Wuhan and Hong Kong seeking comment were not answered during the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday.

The Karma, which sells for more than $100,000, is an advanced plug-in hybrid that runs on an electric motor and has an onboard gasoline engine that recharges the battery. The powertrain is similar to the Chevrolet Volt.

Fisker, led by CEO Tony Posawatz, said in December that it was working with Evercore Partners to find potential investors or partners. Without a partner or a buyer by midyear, Fisker may face a cash crunch, a person familiar with the matter said last month. Posawatz once served as vehicle line director for the Volt.

Fisker still owes the US Energy Department about $200 million from a loan program the agency halted last year following the bankruptcy of solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC.

Fisker hired Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group to help run day-to-day operations, with Huron's Hugh Sawyer serving as chief administration officer.

If Dongfeng's bid wins and a deal is done, the company may eventually move Fisker production to China, said an insider. The company hired Finnish manufacturer Valmet Automotive to produce the Karma.