U.S. loans $528.7 million for Fisker $39,000 hybrid

Low-interest U.S. Department of Energy loans will go toward developing an affordable plug-in hybrid electric car for U.S. production, auto start-up says.

The Fisker Karma at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in August. Fisker Automotive

Fisker Automotive has been awarded $528.7 million in U.S. Department of Energy loans to develop a more affordable plug-in hybrid for U.S. production.

The hybrid car start-up company is indeed developing a $39,000 plug-in hybrid electric car, as CNET News predicted last week.

Fisker currently refers to the mystery car as "Project Nina."

The majority of the funds, which were awarded from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, will be put toward developing and building production facilities for the Nina car in the U.S.

Nina's development and production will employ an estimated 5,000 U.S. workers counting indirect jobs from suppliers as well as direct Fisker employment, the company said Tuesday.

Fisker recently introduced the Karma, a luxury hybrid sedan that sells for about $87,900. A small portion of the Department of Energy funds will go toward further developing production facilities for the Karma in the U.S.

The Nina plug-in electric hybrid price of $39,000, is the estimate after government rebates are factored in to the price. While that price point would not be considered "affordable" to the average U.S. car buyer, it is an affordable price for plug-in hybrids and electric cars, which are not yet produced in large volume. Tesla's Model S electric sedan, in comparison, costs an estimated $50,000 to $56,400 after rebates. Tesla was awarded $465 million in loans from the same Department of Energy fund in June to build production facilities for the Model S.

Using the federal loans, Fisker hopes to produce 100,000 "Nina" cars annually in the U.S. starting in 2012. And while the cars will carry made-in-the-U.S.A. bragging rights, Fisker hopes to sell many of the cars elsewhere too.

"A significant percentage will be exported, helping to balance the U.S. trade deficit," Fisker said.

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