DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Chinese auto parts conglomerate that wants to buy failed electric-vehicle manufacturer Fisker Automotive says it would build next-generation Fisker cars in Delaware if there is sufficient consumer demand.
Wanxiang Group Corp. outlined its intentions in a court filing late Wednesday as it pushes for a competitive auction of Fisker's remaining assets. In an order issued late Thursday in advance of a scheduled Friday hearing, the judge presiding over Fisker's bankruptcy suggested that Wanxiang's proposal for an open bidding process is worth considering.
California-based Fisker, which had planned to build cars at the former General Motors plant in Delaware, filed for bankruptcy protection in November. The move culminated a long, downward spiral that began after Fisker received a $529 million loan commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Wanxiang indicated in earlier court documents that it wanted to resume production of Fisker's problem-plagued first-generation car, Karma, in Finland and eventually shift production to a Michigan facility. That dealt a setback to hopes of Delaware officials that cars would be built at the former GM site, where Democratic Gov. Jack Markell and Vice President Joe Biden, Delaware's former senior U.S. senator, announced with great fanfare in 2009 that Fisker would revive vehicle production.
But in Wednesday's court filing, Wanxiang said it intends not only to resume Karma production, but to continue development and design of a second-generation line of Fisker vehicles. Once such vehicles are ready for mass production "in volumes that necessitate a separate manufacturing facility," Wanxiang intends to manufacture them at the now-shuttered GM plant in Wilmington.
Markell, whose administration provided about $20 million in loans and grants to Fisker to build cars in Delaware, welcomed the news of Wanxiang's intentions.
"The sole purpose of the state's loan and grant was to provide a future for a sector of the Delaware economy hard hit by the recession, so we strongly support any path forward that could lead to that result," Markell said in an emailed response for comment.
"The statement by Wanxiang — a company that employs thousands of Americans in dozens of manufacturing plants across the United States — about utilizing the Delaware plant is a positive development," Markell added.
It remains unclear, however, whether Wanxiang, which recently bought the company that served as Fisker's primary battery supplier following a separate bankruptcy case, will be able to take control of Fisker itself.
Hybrid Technology LLC, owned by Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li, also is seeking to buy Fisker's remaining assets in bankruptcy. Hybrid recently paid $25 million for DOE's outstanding loan balance, which resulted in a loss to U.S. taxpayers of $139 million.
Hybrid now wants to buy Fisker in a quick, private sale, using a $75 million credit bid based on its position as Fisker's senior secured lender. Hybrid has indicated that it likely would resell the former GM plant if it is included in an asset sale, suggesting it has no interest in building cars in Delaware.