EV maker Fisker files for bankruptcy after its problematic SUV flops


Failed venture: A file picture of the Ocean EV at the AutoMobility LA Auto Show in Los Angeles. The startup went public in 2020. — AP

NEW YORK: Fisker Inc has filed for bankruptcy, months after the electric-vehicle (EV) startup stopped production of its only model, the oft-malfunctioning Ocean sports utility vehicle (SUV).

The company listed between US$500mil and US$1bil of assets, and between US$100mil and US$500mil of liabilities, in its petition filed in Delaware.

The filing protects Fisker from creditors while it works out a plan to repay them.

Fisker is the second plug-in car company started by Henrik Fisker – a famed designer of BMW and Aston Martin sports cars – to end up in bankruptcy.

An earlier venture, Fisker Automotive, filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2013 after a series of recalls spelled the downfall of its battery supplier, a fellow recipient of US Energy Department loans.

The undoing of Fisker Inc was more self-inflicted. The startup went public in 2020 as part of the wave of EV companies to benefit from the pandemic era boom in special-purpose acquisition companies (SPAC).

Combining with a SPAC sponsored by Apollo Global Management Inc left Fisker with roughly US$1bil in cash and helped the company land a deal with a Magna International Inc subsidiary that manufactures vehicles for the likes of Toyota, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

While Fisker Ocean sport utility vehicle production started on schedule in November 2022, the first SUVs lacked basic features including cruise control.

The California-based company told customers it would deploy capabilities it had promised them the following year, via over-the-air software updates.

Software bugs ended up slowing production for months, leading Fisker to repeatedly slash its forecasts.

In February of this year, influential YouTuber Marques Brownlee produced a video – This is the Worst Car I’ve Ever Reviewed – that summarises a series of issues he experienced while borrowing an Ocean from a New Jersey dealership. The video has racked up more than 5.7 million views.

Fisker produced 10,193 Oceans last year but delivered only 4,929 vehicles to customers. The company attempted a dramatic pivot in early January, seeking out partnerships with franchised dealers in North America in a move away from selling SUVs directly to consumers.

By February, Fisker warned there was substantial doubt about its ability to continue operating.

The following month, the company announced it had secured US$150mil from an existing lender, though the financing was contingent on Fisker securing investment from an unidentified automaker.

A week after that disclosure, Fisker said that talks with the carmaker had ended without a deal. Magna executives said during an earnings call last month that the company’s updated outlook for this year assumed no further production of Ocean SUVs. While the company laid off 400 to 500 people from its facility in Graz, Austria, the plant employs around 7,000 workers and continues to manufacture vehicles for BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover. — Bloomberg

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