Flash analysis: the Fisker debacle and its implications on investing, innovation, and government incentives

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Survey results
    1. What was the biggest contributor to Fisker’s problems?
    2. What lessons should be applied to other car companies like Tesla and Nissan?
    3. What will happen to Fisker?
    4. What impact will Fisker’s struggles have on the electric car industry?
    5. What impact will Fisker’s struggles have on cleantech investing?
    6. How will government spending for clean power and greener transportation be affected?
  3. Analysis
  4. Timeline: Fisker’s road to failure
  5. About Katie Fehrenbacher

1. Summary

Electric car startup Fisker Automotive along with its plug-in sports car, the Karma, hold a unique place in history. The company is turning out to be one of the worst venture capital bets of all time. It has now become a Solyndra-style political punching bag because of its likely lost government loan. It has also gained attention for selling around 2,000 cars to celebrities like Justin Bieber and Al Gore. How many companies can boast that they’ve been called a loser in a presidential debate, have raised and spent over a billion dollars, and had a television debut on Two and a Half Men?

Fisker has been everything but boring. However, in recent weeks it has become clear that the five-year-old company is moving ever closer to the end of its life. It has laid off the bulk of its staff, faces numerous lawsuits, has had $21 million seized from an account by the Department of Energy to cover an expected default on its close to $200 million government loan, and was the subject of a vicious televised congressional hearing about misspent taxpayer money.

Some of Fisker’s executives and investors are hopeful that the company can still be resurrected with a new partner or acquirer, but the end game for Fisker will likely be much more painful. Bankruptcy and liquidation are much more realistic fates.

We asked GigaOM readers a variety of questions about what they think will happen to Fisker and what they think will be the broader implications of and lessons learned from Fisker’s high-profile crash and burn. Will the company have an effect on cleantech investing, on government incentives for green transportation and clean power, and on sales of electric cars in general?

This research note examines the survey’s results and also includes an analysis of what went wrong with Fisker.

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