Kentucky is on a list of several states that once-troubled automaker Fisker Inc. is considering for a manufacturing facility to produce an all-electric SUV — with at least 1,000 full-time jobs.
Henrik Fisker, an automotive designer and entrepreneur who founded the company, confirmed his team had been contacted by Kentucky officials as the automaker searches for a site in a bid to rebound from bankruptcy six years ago.
“We’ve had communications from Kentucky,” Fisker said in a recent interview, adding that “I don’t want to say anybody is in the lead.”
Kentucky economic development officials declined to say if they have responded to a request for proposal or RFP process being handled by tax and advisory firm Ernst & Young. Instead, a spokesman pointed out that Fisker’s on the right track to consider Kentucky.
“A company like Fisker would do well to look at Kentucky because we have a wealth of manufacturing,” combined with low-cost industrial electricity and a “fantastic” logistics network, said Jack Mazurak, a spokesman for the Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet.
“We’re always open for a company that wants to bring jobs and investment to the state.”
The deadline for submission is this week, and after visits to several potential sites, Fisker expects to announce its choice in late May. Kentucky, plus Indiana, California, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are among the states that have expressed interest in luring the auto plant or that Fisker has identified because of their auto manufacturing bases, existing networks of parts suppliers and available workforces.
Key for the company is finding a facility to retro-fit because production is scheduled to start the second half of 2021, Fisker said.
Automotive fans know Fisker for his first splashy but unsuccessful bid to launch a company as the U.S. headed into recession. The Danish-born designer of the luxury Aston Martin D89 and the BMW Z8 launched a venture in 2007, making a hybrid plug-in sports sedan that was backed by more than $1 billion in private funding.
The company was approved for more than $520 million in loans by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing, which offers low-cost, long-term loans to automakers and manufacturers producing fuel-efficient cars and components.
Braidy Industries, the company that has encountered several delays in building a proposed aluminum rolling mill in Eastern Kentucky, recently applied for up to $800 million from the same loan program.
About 2,000 Fisker Karma models were assembled starting in 2011 before a series of setbacks, triggered by recalls of batteries made by a contract manufacturer. The federal Energy Department froze the company’s line of credit at $192 million and it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2013.
The Energy Department later reported recovering about $53 million, the combination of $28 million from the company and $25 million from the sale of the loan to another firm. Chinese auto parts maker Wanxiang bought the assets for $149.2 million in 2015.
Asked about the stability of the latest venture, Fisker said, “we’re not the only car company in the world that’s gone bankrupt. The good news is there’s a lot of lessons.”
The company has raised an undisclosed amount of cash in two rounds of funding. One investor is Capture Venture Capital, a subsidiary of tractor and heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, Fisker said.
In the meantime, the company is working at a private lab to build a comparatively large 80-kilowatt battery, which is expected to provide a range of 300 miles. The SUV’s sticker price is targeted at under $40,000, and less than $34,000 with a federal tax credit.
Fisker told CNBC late last month that the planned SUV — shown only in shadowy photos — would feature twin motors, one driving each axle, which could make for an engine with lots of pickup.
Fisker said he’s confident the time is right now for an innovative competitor. “You’ve got to have the right product that’s ready for the future. We have that.”