Reuters reports that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross ruled that an auction for the assets of defunct hybrid sports car maker Fisker Automotive will be held on February 12. The auction will be held in the New York offices of the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis and attendance will be limited to representatives of Fisker, the unsecured creditors’ committee, and the two bidders, the American unit of China’s Wanxiang Group, an automotive supplier, and Hybrid Tech Holdings, which is affiliated with Hong Kong investor Richard Li. Other potential bidders have until February 7th to tender offers.
Hybrid Tech has made an initial bid that it says is worth $55 million. That bid, known as a “credit bid” involves forgiving some of what the company owes on a $168 secured loan, which Li’s team has already bought for $25 million at a government auction last year. That loan had been part of a Department of Energy program intended to foster the growth of alternative energy vehicles. Li had already been a longtime investor in Fisker. Wanxiang, for its part, made a last minute stalking horse bid of $35.7 million in cash. Wanxiang bought Fisker’s battery supplier A123 Systems when that company filed for bankruptcy last year.
Wanxiang’s bid is seen as favorable by the unsecured creditors, who would get nothing in a complete credit bid, and also has the approval of officials in Delaware. Fisker had purchased the former GM assembly plant in Wilmington. Hybrid Tech has indicated that it would probably sell that asset whereas Wanxiang has said that it would like to build Fiskers there.
Last week, in an oral opinion, Judge Gross ordered that all bids will require some cash and he limited Hybrid Tech’s credit bid to the $25 million it paid for the loan.
Li’s lawyer is appealing, and called the ruling a “terrible precedent.” Judge Gross defended his decision in court on Friday. “Sometimes I’m right, and sometimes I’m wrong, and I think I’m right on this,” Gross said. “It was argued I was setting new precedent. I think I’m really following the law.” The judge then said that he’d be issuing a written opinion of his credit bid decision later today.
Fisker stopped production of the $100,000 Karma in 2012 and filed for protection from its creditors in November of 2013.
Meanwhile, at the media preview of the Detroit auto show earlier in the week Bob Lutz and his partner Gilbert Villoreal were showing their VL Motors Destino, a Karma retrofitted with a Corvette ZR1 drivetrain, new front and rear fascias and a custom interior by seat supplier Katzskin. Lutz said that they already owned 20 Karmas to convert for a delivered price of $200,000, though they would be starting out converting customers’ cars for half that price. He said there was no shortage of Fiskers to convert. Reportedly there are about 700 unsold Karmas in either Fisker Automotive’s hands or in dealers’ stock. Lutz said at the press conference for VL Motors that earlier in the day they’d already spoken to a dealer who wanted them to convert at least 4 Karmas he had in stock.
Lutz had been part of an attempt last spring by Wanxiang to buy Fisker. When asked by TTAC if he was part of the current bid he said that he could not comment. He did, however, comment about what possible assets Fisker could have that would be worth buying, since the heart of Fisker’s hybrid drivetrain is based on technology owned by a company (and investor in Fisker) named Quantum. In addition to the design of the Karma, it’s chassis and body, Fisker has the right to use Quantum’s serial hybrid technology providing they pay a per vehicle royalty. Lutz said that any buyer of Fisker’s assets would then have the same access to Quantum’s hybrid tech.