By on May 17, 2013



Most of our readers probably already know the broad strokes of the Fisker story. If you’re interested in the finer details of the history of the extended range EV company that appears to be circling the drain, GigaOM, a site that covers the investment side of tech companies, has published a fairly comprehensive 4,000 word look back at Fisker by Katie Fehrenbacher.

While the ~$200 million that Fisker received in Dept. of Energy loans has gotten a bit of attention, that’s only a small fraction of the $1 billion plus that the EV startup burned through since 2007. The bulk of that money came from venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins as well as private investors.

Fehrenbacher’s been covering Fisker from the beginning and for this article she conducted a dozen recent interviews with individuals at the heart of the Fisker story. The focus is primarily on the financing, but she also goes into Fisker’s business model for building cars, like the curious fact that the company paid up front for 15,000 cars’ worth of components from suppliers, though it only assembled about 2,000 Karmas.

They also apparently paid BMW at least something in advance for the engines Fisker was going to be using on its second model, the Nina/Atlantic, though production on that car wasn’t going to start for years. Fehrenbacher also described the company as top heavy with experienced auto industry executives, many of them highly compensated refugees from Detroit.

As they say, read the whole thing here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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24 Comments on “The Fisker Saga, Courtesy of GigaOM...”

  • avatar

    Commence predicable ranting!

    • 0 avatar

      I’m 6’6 so it ANGERS ME seeing all these “supercars” being built for “small men” who need something to offset their penis envy/ vertical challenges.

      The Karma WOULD HAVE SUCCEEDED if it was bigger – big enough for a guy my size to be comfortable in. That’s basically the reason the model S is succeeding – because it is spacious and practical.

      But they didn’t. They made it cramped and small. THEY DESERVE TO GO UNDER.

      Natural Selection must be served.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know if it would have succeeded if it had more room but it would have had a much better chance. Im 6’5″ and I completely agree. It’s retarded how many cars nowdays are built for tiny people.

      • 0 avatar

        In effort to make things sleek invariably you’re stuck making things short, that’s a fact. But generally the Karma fails on all practicality. Its a big, heavy car with four doors – yet Ecotec powered and cramped…all at the same time? That’s exactly what turns people off about electric cars, but done up in sexy bodywork, a chintzy toy that’s 90% packaging advertising lies to suckered little kids. Nothing’s more shallow than that, good riddance.

  • avatar

    Executives’ to-do list:

    1. Get hired into a trendy startup.

    2. Raise lots of capital.

    3. PROFIT!

    My best friend’s brother did this at a telecom startup during the dot-com boom in the 1990s. The whole thing eventually folded, but he got paid a very comfortable mid-6-figure salary while there. So it’s win-win for the top brass no matter what the outcome is.

    • 0 avatar

      I suppose you work for free then? Or you have a contract to return your prior pay should the company not turn a profit?

      • 0 avatar

        Sadly, a lot of people work for free. How many people work well beyond the normal workday on a regular basis? More do than don’t I’m willing to bet. I heard on the news the other day that wages relative to the GDP is at the lowest level in sixty years. While some of that is certainly because of productivity improvements due to things like computers, etc., clearly there are people busting their ass while the top dogs are raking it in. The line “be grateful for your job” is really wearing pretty thin…

  • avatar

    I read the article, but all I could think about was Ronnie personally attacking some poor guy who expressed concern over what the future holds for him and his family.

  • avatar

    It’s interesting that the Department of Energy kept a lid on canceling additional loans so that Fisker could continue to fleece their investors. I wonder if the investors learned anything from this.

  • avatar

    Only suckers would buy a tarted up Volt for more than a $100k, pretty-boy fools like DiCaprio got what they deserved. And the Bieb didn’t keep his for long obviously, given his buddy was killing photographers in Bieb’s 458 Italia while hooning in Sepulveda Pass about four months after Bieb got his Karma. I’ve seen about four Karmas total in L.A. – the last one ironically, fittingly, dead on a flatbed.

    It seems anything powered by a (now defunct) A123 battery system kisses a kiss of financial death, and then catches on fire. My perceptions of the Tesla S got a boost when I learned that a real electronics company (Panasonic) was making its batteries.

  • avatar

    “Fehrenbacher also described the company as top heavy with experienced auto industry executives, many of them highly compensated refugees from Detroit.”

    I work in a small manufacturing company in SoCal…we got one of these top heavy fisker refugee jack asses as a VP…the idiot wants to solve everything by having meeting after meeting after meeting, and writing a list with who is responsible for what, and by what time…exactly like in Detroit…perfect for a company of 100 people…

  • avatar

    Well this article is certainly lacking the shrieking and racial slurs that have really drawn me to Ronnie’s considered, level-headed work. Thankfully, Cars In Depth still looks like it was developed in 1999, I’m not sure I could handle a post-geocities makeover.

  • avatar

    It’s obvious the company was led by old Detroit brass, look at how the car turned out. It was ugly, underpowered, overpriced, and apparently could catch on fire.

    The Tesla Model S may be priced out of the range of many, but at least it’s attractive, fast, and doesn’t catch on fire.

    • 0 avatar

      The Karma is a lot, ugly is not one of them

      • 0 avatar

        Here, here. I cannot wait to get my hands on one (at a more acceptable price-point). That thing is pure sex. Not Alfa levels, but durn close.

        Depending on state-of-the-shelf tech out there and cheap by the time a Karma hits my value equation, I’ll be repowering it with something in 500HP range. Hopefully that’ll be electric…

  • avatar

    Beautiful car.
    I hope someone saves the company and the design.
    The closest america got to a Alfa Romeo in the purist sense…
    Now let the Alfa bashing begin.

    • 0 avatar

      Lightyears beyond the visual vomit of anything that conman Musk has ever created.

      Sorta like the Bricklin (filthy con-scum) SV1 v. the Pantera.

  • avatar

    It sounds like it was an issue of two people who weren’t interested in building electric cars as much as building a company that builds electric cars. It didn’t help much that the namesake was essentially working for Tesla when he was first approached and seems to have lifted much of the basic design from them.

    Building a large manufacturer from the ground up is difficult and then using commodity parts seems disastrous. But this is a tale of bad business models more than any attack on the technology.

  • avatar

    “The Next Detroit”

    Who knew it would be so soon!

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