Tag: DOE

By on September 15, 2011

Reuters reports:

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives want to halve the balance of a U.S. government loan fund established to help the auto industry make more fuel efficient cars and trucks.

If plans to shift some $1.5 billion from the Energy Department advanced technology fund to disaster assistance are carried out, serious questions would be raised about Chrysler’s ability to fully capitalize on its bid for new financing.

That the DOE loan program is under attack comes as no surprise: it’s been savaged by both the GAO (twice) and the Center for Public Integrity for a lack of clear goals, weak oversight, misappropriation, and political patronage (more on the patronage bit here). And with the Solyndra DOE loan scandal blossoming, it’s no surprise to see ATVM going under the axe (although Rep Steny Hoyer is leading the Democrat pushback). What’s worrying about this development, however, is that Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has said that the DOE loan was “a crucial part” of negotiations over its recent Wall Street bailout loan refinancing. When GM quit the program earlier this year, Marchionne also said that

I have neither the arrogance nor the cash to show any disdain toward the DOE process.

Chrysler also cites its ability to secure the DOE loans as a major risk factor in its latest 10-Q SEC filing. And with only about $10.2b in cash and equivalents on hand at the end of June, there’s a chance that this attack on the ATVM loan program could deal a body blow to Chrysler’s finances. Here’s hoping Sergio has kept the runt of the bailed-out automaker litter from dependence on this apparently corrupt, and politically vulnerable loan program.

By on August 19, 2011

With the environment taking an ever-larger place in automotive advertising, it’s interesting to note that Fisker’s latest brochure puts green in its place: behind sexy. Of course these sultry images [via BusinessInsider] aren’t free from environmental overtones, featuring taglines like “designed to get you hot, not the planet,” but it’s clear that Fisker is more heavily relying on the most traditional tool in the advertising playbook. Why? For one thing, even though Fisker is delivering Karmas, the EPA has not yet certified its efficiency rating… so we don’t even know how environmentally friendly it is yet. For another the Karma’s main rival, Tesla’s forthcoming Model S, is pure electric and therefore more appealing to wealthy environmentalists. Finally, unlike environmental messaging, sex doesn’t remind people that Fisker was the beneficiary of over half a billion dollars in government loans. Plus, sex is still, well, sexy. The more things change, the more they stay the same…

By on June 10, 2011

The Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program has come under fire from the Government Accountability Office before, and was the subject of a patronage investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News. And the bad news keeps piling up, with yet another nasty GAO report [PDF] taking the program to task for running up higher-than-expected lending costs due to “industry risks” and for failing to provide required technical oversight.

(Read More…)

By on April 14, 2011

Back in November of 2009, when GM announced that it would repay its government loans, it didn’t take much investigation to realize that The General was simply shuffling government money from one pocket to the other and that true “payback” was still a ways off. The New York Times asked me to write an op-ed on the subject, and I took the opportunity to point out the reality of the situation and note

G.M.’s global interests are far too diverse for it to serve its taxpayer owners faithfully, and it can’t afford to subjugate its business prerogatives to the political needs of its major shareholder in the White House. So, unless Americans develop a sudden obsession with G.M.’s $40,000 Volt electric car just in time for an I.P.O., taxpayers will be stuck with tens of billions of dollars in losses.

Afterward, while our government contemplates its runaway deficit and getting rid of its 8 percent of Chrysler’s equity, perhaps we’ll get an admission that General Motors still owes the American people. Without one, the relationship between the public and the automaker, and the Obama administration as well, may never be the same.

And now that our government finds itself “contemplating a runaway deficit and getting rid of its 8 percent of Chrysler’s equity,” would you believe that a similar federal money-shuffle is under way? Believe it.

(Read More…)

By on October 27, 2010

The recent bailout of America’s auto industry began with approval of so-called “Section 136” loans to help automakers retool factories for higher-efficiency automobiles. Ford, Nissan, Tesla and Fisker have already received their portions of the Department of Energy  loans, but GM and Chrysler have had their payouts delayed due to the program’s strict “viability” requirements. But now Reuters reports that Chrysler’s request for $10b in low-cost government retooling loans is nearing approval. It’s not clear how much of that $10b will be approved, but according to Pentastar spokesfolks

Our application covers a wide variety of technologies including electric vehicles, (gasoline/electric) hybrids and advanced gasoline engine technology

Chrysler still owes some $5.7b to the US Treasury, and the cost of servicing that debt (interest on ChryCo’s existing government debt ranges from 7.22 to 14.33 percent) is considered a major reason for Chrysler’s second-quarter loss this year. GM is also seeking over $10b in 136 loans, but with only $16.5b remaining in the $25b 136 fund, either Chrysler or GM will have to receive less than their entire request. GM’s request will reportedly be approved sometime after Chryslers.

By on May 14, 2010

Officials working with the Department of Energy tell the Detroit News that GM and Chrysler face no major obstacles in their quest for huge retooling loans from the DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan program. GM is seeking $14.4b and Chrysler has asked for $8.55b in low-cost government loans. Says Matt Rogers, a senior adviser to the Energy Department

Project finance details need to be worked through, but those things are working out just fine as we work directly with the companies. It’s really a process of making sure that each of the projects that they have are in fact competitive.

Er, competitive compared to what?

By on March 29, 2010

With a mere $9b awarded so far, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan program is a long way from fulfilling its $25b promise to fund a turnaround in America’s green auto sector. So far, Ford has received $5.9b for a wide range of retooling projects (not a bailout, per Ford PR), Nissan has received $1.6b for Leaf production in Smyrna, TN, while startups Tesla and Fisker have received $465m and $529m respectively. According to the Detroit News, the rest of the 100-odd applicants for the $25b pool are stuck waiting, and with about $42b in total pending requests, not everyone is going to get a rose from the Feds. Predictably, the whining has begun.

(Read More…)

By on January 26, 2010

It’s one thing to say “the electrification of the car is inevitable” (Bob Lutz) when you’re buying the motors from suppliers. But GM is putting (somebody’s) money where their oracle’s wandering mouth is, and getting into the electric motor building business. The General has announced that $246 million dollars, of which $105 million came from a DOE grant (not loan), will be spent on facilities to build lighter, smaller and more efficient electric motors for the next generation of their two-mode hybrid system and rear-wheel drive applications. Looks like a “slim-Jim” version is being developed for a “future range of rear-drive cars”. Hmm… (Read More…)

By on January 12, 2010
On the upswing (courtesy:thestar.blogs.com)

Despite Ford’s surging stock price, new models and rising customer confidence there’s always been that one bone of contention which had divided peoples’ opinion: debt. $35 billion of it. Though they’ve tried to restructure it, selling new shares and raising cash throughout 2009, it’s still a problem. But apparently it’s becoming less of a problem. ABC news report that Fitch Ratings upgraded their assessment of the risk of Ford defaulting on its debt obligations, basing their optimistic view on a better economic environment, the company’s stronger margins, increased market share and cash position. Oh yes, and a small matter of $5.9b in federal DOE retooling loans [full Fitch release here]. Ford’s Credit unit also received a hearty slap on the back from Fitch because of its improving access to capital, as its rating was raised from “CCC” to “B-“. But let’s not get carried away. While this is a positive step in Alan Mulally’s vision of a sustainable Ford, the rating still qualifies Ford debt as non-investment grade.

By on December 1, 2009

Where's my NSFW government loan? (courtesy:blog.makezine.com)

Former Tesla PR honcho Daryl Siry lays into the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan program (ATVML) at Wired’s Autopia blog, taking the $25b program to task for “stifling innovation.” At its core, his argument is a simple one:

Startup companies that enjoy DOE support, most notably Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive, have an extraordinary advantage over potential competitors since they have secured access to capital on very cheap terms. The magnitude of this advantage puts the DOE in the role of kingmaker with the power to vault a small startup with no product on the market -– as is the case with Fisker — into a potential global player on the back of government financial support.

As a result, the vibrant and competitive market for ideas chasing venture capital that has been the engine of innovation for decades in the United States is being subordinated to the judgments and political inclinations of a government bureaucracy that has never before wielded such market power.

All of which sounds very TTAC… in fact, our lengthy Bailout Watch series began with a similar analysis of the ATVML program (albeit with a Detroit-focused twist). Unfortunately, Siry’s intentions in this case are questionable… as are his conclusions.

(Read More…)

By on September 16, 2009

Three into four does not go... (courtesy:streetknowledge.wordpress.com)

The WSJ reports that EV manufacturer Aptera is asking the government for $75M from its energy-efficient retooling funds. Unfortunately for the makers of the Jetsons-inspired 2e, there’s some debate about whether its three-wheel design makes it a car or a motorcycle. Which means the gravy train could be delayed at the station. The Department of Energy has already rejected Aptera’s request for this reason, but Congress is wading into the issue at the EV maker’s request.

(Read More…)

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