Leonardo DiCaprio may love his Fisker Karma, but the California automaker is listing like the Titanic. Less than a month after founder Henrik Fisker quit, the boutique car company laid off some 160 employees, the Detroit News reports, as it struggles to secure funding. That's about 75% of its workforce. Automotive News reports the automaker is now facing a federal lawsuit for failing to give those employees adequate notice.
Fisker set sail in 2007, but the voyage has seen icebergs galore. We reviewed the $103,000 (including destination charge) Karma plug-in hybrid in March 2012, and we found it, well, quirky. That same month, Consumer Reports bought a Karma that promptly broke down. Fisker recalled the car twice during the next five months, the second time for possible electrical problems that could lead to a fire.
Now the Detroit News estimates Fisker has just $30 million left. Just how little is that? Consider this: Bloomberg News reports the automaker had raised more than $1 billion from private sources plus $529 million in low-interest Department of Energy loans — part of the agency's controversial $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program, whose recipients range from Tesla to Ford. The DOE stopped payments in 2011 after Fisker failed to meet conditions for the loan. Having already spent $193 million of the funding, Fisker suspended plans to build a more affordable car called the Atlantic at a shuttered GM plant in Delaware.Fisker's battery supplier, A123 — another recipient of ATVM funds — filed for bankruptcy in October 2012, the same month Hurricane Sandy destroyed more than 300 Karmas at a New Jersey port. Battery problems have suspended Karma production since July 2012, and now bankruptcy looms. The automaker has retained bankruptcy attorneys as it nears an April 22 loan repayment date, the Detroit News reports. Talks with various Chinese firms to secure additional funding are stuck in neutral.
In its six-year history, Fisker has sold about 2,500 Karmas worldwide, according to Bloomberg.