Apple may or may not be building a car to battle Tesla, but the tech giant is in trouble with A123 Systems for poaching the latter’s employees.
Reports by Bloomberg suggest that Fisker could sell up to an 85 percent stake to Chinese automaker Dongfeng. The automaker apparently bid $350 million for the beleaguered plug-in car maker, according to sources close to the company.
While Johnson Controls and China’s Wanxiang Group have competing bids to acquire the assets of advanced battery maker and Fisker supplier A123, a more serious battle is occurring in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware between the startup automaker and what is arguably its most important vendor. A123 wants the bankruptcy judge to void its contracts including those for supplying batteries to Fisker. That could stop production of Fisker’s only car, the Karma.
A123 Systems will be replacing battery packs built at their Livonia, Michigan plant that contain prismatic cells – the same type used in the Fisker Karma. The recall is estimated to cost A123 about $55 million. The defective batteries are linked to the recent problems experienced by Fisker Karma owners, according to A123 CEO David Vieau.
In the ramp-up to the launch of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, a great debate seized the engineering community: was Nissan opening itself to problems by not including a active thermal management system for the Leaf’s battery pack, or was Chevrolet’s liquid-cooled approach simply adding unnecessary complexity? Well, thus far, the verdict seems to be in Nissan’s favor. Though Leaf has been troubled by some dissatisfaction with its real-world range, the Volt has endurd the first technical semi-scandal of the plug-in era, when federal regulators found that ruptured coolant lines could cause fires. Now the liquid-cooled approach is hitting its second challenge, as Fisker’s battery supplier A123 Systems is warning in a letter [ PDF] that
some of the battery packs we produce for Fisker Automotive could have a potential safety issue relating to the battery cooling system.
In the leadup to its bailouts and bankruptcy, Chrysler seemed to have suddenly gotten religion about zero-emissions technology, parading around several ENVI electric vehicle prototypes. By the time Fiat had cleared the cobwebs from new product development in Auburn Hills, the EV vaporware had faded into nothingness. With the need to impress politicians ostensibly in Chrysler’s past, the ENVI program was rolled into Chrysler’s normal product development process, and we no longer had to choke back laughter at the idea that Chrysler would replace its unloved Sebring with the pure-electric 200C concept. Chrysler’s embarrassing Two-Mode hybrids were also hidden from view, with only a vague indication that a hybrid Ram might someday become available. When we talked to Ram CEO Fred Diaz at last November’s Five Year Plan announcement, he said that a hybrid Ram was still being considered. Now, egmcartech reports that the Ram hybrid is dead from a commercial standpoint, and that the program will turn into a plug-in hybrid test fleet for Chrysler’s best partner: The Department of Energy, which gave the form $48m to develop a fleet of 140 plug-in Rams. But don’t worry consumers, there’s an alt-energy Chrysler in your future… sort of.
Reuters reports that Tesla is planning an Initial Public Offering, after postponing planned IPOs in 2008 and 2009. Tesla reportedly hopes to capitalize on the recent success of battery developer A123 Systems, on the assumption that the A123 IPO has raised interest in electric auto firms. According to one of Reuters’ sources, Tesla’s IPO filing could be made “within days.” And the Silicon Valley startup, which currently has only one product, the $100k+ Tesla Roadster, will most likely have to hurry. Both Nissan and General Motors plan to enter the electric car market this year, marking the initial entries by established auto OEMs into the American EV market. Both of their initial products, the estimated $30k Nissan Leaf and the estimated $40k Chevrolet Volt, will cost considerably less than Tesla’s estimated $50k Model S sedan and will beat it to market by at least a year. Acquiring funding after cheaper competing models go on sale could be extremely challenging for a boutique automaker like Tesla.