Thirteen of Fisker Automotive executives made more than six figures in the past year, despite manufacturing zero cars.
The news was first reported Wednesday afternoon on the automotive Web site Jalopnik.com, and later in the evening by the Delaware Journal. Jalopnik often gets the scoops when electric cars catch fire. For those unaware of the ugly saga, Fisker declared bankruptcy at the end of last month after squandering more than $1.4 billion in private investment and losing $139 million of taxpayers’ money.
Fires, faulty drive units, financial losses and stock price deflation marked Tesla Motors news in a week that seemed as bad as the last couple of years were good.
Fortunately for CEO Elon Musk and his support staff he’s mastered the art of celebri-preneur showmanship that he’s built enough standing with the media to endure a really bad week. The multi-billionaire who’s dazzled with innovation at Paypal, SpaceX and SolarCity will be permitted his stumbles because of his track record and his self-assurance. Henrik Fisker, whose taxpayer-backed luxury electric auto company didn’t get nearly the same favor, must be jealous.
As NLPC has covered Fisker Automotive’s catastrophic flop over the last few years since it was granted a $529-million taxpayer-guaranteed loan from the Department of Energy, one big question that repeatedly came up was: How could a company that produced only one electric car model burn through $1.4 billion in investment so quickly?
Reuters uncovered a number of reasons in a report published earlier this week. Citing documents and some sources, mostly anonymous, the news syndicate painted a disturbing picture of mismanagement, incompetence, disinformation, and squander. While businesses stumble and go out of business every day, Fisker’s case illustrates why government bureaucrats are only accidental successes as investors of public money at best, but often are horrific decision makers at worst.
As the Department of Energy seized the last of Fisker Automotive’s reserves in lieu of an unknown amount that it was due to repay this week, what’s left of the lame electric automaker clings to the slim hope it can survive.
While CEO Tony Posawatz and his team may need an intervention, a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday revealed that DOE and committee Democrats (as well as those in the Obama administration) are hopelessly stuck in an alternate universe, where losing millions of taxpayer dollars is considered a good record. Republicans had called officials from the company – including founder Henrik Fisker, as well as administrators of DOE’s loan program – to explain the logic that went into granting $529 million to a fledgling, unproven car company that targets an ultra-rich clientele.
As green energy stimulus recipients raked in billions of dollars the last few years, with President Obama declaring what a great “investment” they were for taxpayers, friends of mine would jokingly ask, “Where’s my dividend?” “Where are my stock certificates?” “Where’s my free electric car?!”
In the case of our $193-million stake in Fisker Automotive, thanks to a Department of Energy loan guarantee, it looks like American shareholders will end up with the whole company itself.
That’s according to a report published earlier this month by the Government Accountability Office, which reviewed DOE’s loan programs for a briefing to both the House and Senate’s Appropriations subcommittees on Energy. Amusingly though, the Web site of DOE’s Loan Programs Office still calls itself “The Financing Force Behind America’s Clean Energy Economy.” The minor blip that undermines that premise is that DOE is having trouble getting someone to borrow $55 billion.
For weeks now the buzz about Fisker Automotive, the latest Department of Energy-funded clunker, is that two China-based automotive companies – Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (which owns Volvo) and Dongfeng Motor Corp. (which is state-owned) – were in bidding negotiations to buy an ownership stake of an unknown size. The speculation was that Fisker was following a similar path as stimulus-financed A123 Systems, which supplied the batteries for Fisker and was recently bought by Sino-owned Wanxiang Group.
And now as the company desperately seeks for cash and/or a rescuer – probably in China – a disagreement arose between Fisker’s founder and its top management. So the man for whom the company was named, Henrik Fisker, quit. The Los Angeles Times and dozens of other outlets reported yesterday that Mr. Fisker left over disputes about “direction” for the company, citing “several major disagreements.”
Stimulus déjà vu-lishness lurks: Another “green” tech company that received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars is financially troubled, seeks a buyer (or their preferred term – a “partner”), and China is ready to swoop in and buy up the remains on the cheap. And the same two Republican senators who slammed the last deal that went down like this are sickened again.
But that didn’t prevent the recipient of $193 million out of President Obama’s green stimulus from laying off another 40 workers. According to the Orange County Register, Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher said the company – which had been awarded a $529 million loan guarantee by the Department of Energy only to see it halted due to unspecified shortcomings – had to halt production because its bankrupt supplier, A123 Systems, left them with a low battery inventory. Ormisher said Fisker has laid off about half its employees since February.