The times they are a-changin’ for Fisker Automotive. The Irvine, Calif.-based startup working on a plug-in hybrid luxury sports car and mid-range plug-in sedan called Project Nina tells VentureWire it expects to close its $528.7 million loan with the Department of Energy by the middle of next month.
By the time that funding — awarded to help the company set up manufacturing in the U.S. and launch the luxury Fisker Karma model — comes through, Fisker expects to have its entire design, engineering, sales, marketing and administrative team located in its Irvine headquarters. According to a release from the company last week, Fisker plans to shutter a Pontiac, Mich., development facility opened in late 2008, bringing the 30 or so full-time Michigan positions out to California by March 1 as the startup gears up to “dramatically” expand hiring to accelerate development of the Nina model.
According to Crain’s Detroit Business, Fisker had already been outsourcing “much of the development work” in Pontiac for the Karma to outside suppliers and engineering firms “led by a core Fisker team.”
This consolidation into the Irvine headquarters marks a shift from the scheme laid out in the DOE’s announcement of Fisker’s loans last September. At the time, the agency said that in the first stage of the program, Fisker would use a $169.3 million loan “for engineering integration costs” to complete the Karma. Engineering work to design tools and equipment and develop manufacturing processes would take place at the Pontiac facility, the DOE explained, with “support” from the Irvine headquarters and assembly taking place overseas.
Fisker spokesperson Russell Datz told us this morning when contacted for comment on the March time line and loan process, “We’d love to offer more detail but since progress is still ongoing we aren’t at the moment.” We’ve also reached out to the DOE for an update on remaining steps for closing the loan, and whether mid-March would be a reasonable time frame in which to complete the process (unfortunately, DOE offices are closed today due to the blizzard, so we may not have answers from the agency until tomorrow).
As we’ve written before, securing a conditional commitment for a low-interest loan through the DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program, as Fisker has done, represents just one of many milestones for companies racing to bring greener cars to market in large numbers.
To Fisker’s credit, the startup has been gaining momentum in recent months, checking off a few key boxes for financing, developing and producing its upcoming models. The company announced a manufacturing site (an old General Motors plant in Wilmington, Del.) for its Project Nina model back in October. And last month, Fisker finally announced a deal with Massachusetts battery developer A123Systems (s AONE) after a couple false starts with other battery suppliers, and closed a $115.3 million round of financing.
But that’s just a start: Reuters reported in January that Fisker needs to raise another $27 million in equity by next Monday (Feb. 15) to hit its next milestone under the loan agreement.
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