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Fisker offers to build cars for others in U.S.

Fisker Automotive plans to use its recently acquired plant in Delaware in part to build vehicles for other automakers.

The Karma will be Fiskerâ
The Karma will be Fiskerâ
Fisker Automotive
The Karma will be Fisker's first car.
The Karma will be Fisker's first car. Fisker Automotive

GENEVA--Fisker Automotive plans to use its recently acquired plant in Delaware in part to build vehicles for other automakers.

The start-up automaker plans to use only one-third of an installed 300,000 units of capacity at a former General Motors plant in Wilmington, Del., for its vehicles, which will be built there in late 2012.

"We want to offer this manufacturing capacity to other OEMs," Fisker COO Bernhard Koehler told Automotive News on the sidelines of the Geneva auto show.

Fisker is spending $120 million on the Delaware plant and, within the next two years, will expand its head count in Delaware alone to 1,500 employees, from 500 worldwide, including contractors, Koehler said.

Fisker also is considering plans to build cars in Delaware for contract manufacturer Valmet Automotive of Finland "in case some of Valmet's customers need more capacity in the United States," Koehler said.

Fisker's first car, the Karma, a luxury plug-in hybrid, is being built in Finland by Valmet. Originally, the plan was for the 400-hp Karma to go on sale in early 2010 for about $80,000. By last year, the proposed sticker had risen above $87,000. It is now pegged at $95,900.

Valmet produces the Porsche Cayman, the Think City electric car, and roof systems for BMW, Mini, Daimler, Renault, and Bentley. It has built other models for Porsche and Saab.

Contract automakers--including Valmet, Magna Steyr of Austria, and Germany's troubled Wilhelm Karmann--have sought North American customers and factories for years, to no avail.

Fisker will deliver its first cars in the United States in July, Koehler said, though "some VIPs may get the car in June."

In May, Fisker will hold test-drive events in the United States and Europe. The start of production will be March 21. Fisker has 3,000 orders for the car.

"In 2011, we will produce and sell at least 7,000 units of the Karma," Koehler said.

In late 2012, Fisker's next car--a family sedan known as Project Nina--will be built in Delaware. It is expected to sell for about $40,000 after a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Fisker predicts Project Nina will create or support 2,000 factory jobs in Delaware by 2014 as production ramps up to full capacity of 75,000 to 100,000 units a year. The sedan will get a new name, not Nina, before its debut.

In late 2009, Fisker signed a letter of intent with Motors Liquidation, the legal entity that disposed of unwanted GM assets in bankruptcy court, to buy the Delaware plant for $18 million.

U.S. manufacturing was a prerequisite for Fisker to qualify for $528 million in loans it got from the U.S. Department of Energy to enter the alternative-energy vehicle market.

Koehler also said Fisker will show a second variant of the Karma in September at the Frankfurt auto show and will launch it in 2012. A convertible version of the Karma will be brought to market by early 2013. All Karma variants initially will be produced by Valmet in Finland.

(Source: Automotive News)