Two days after a Congressional hearing about a US Department of Energy loan to Fisker Automotive, Bob Lutz wrote a column pondering what should be done to stop the financial hemorrhaging at the company that builds – well, used to build – the Karma extended-range sports car. When Lutz was vice chairman at General Motors, a federal bailout kept that company's factories open and helped bring the Chevrolet Volt to market. So, should the same sort of logic be applied here and Fisker given access to more money? Lutz wrote, "After all, the feds bailed out GM! What's the difference? Ah, there is one! GM was a product powerhouse, preparing the best line of cars and trucks in the last 50 years."
Lutz had good things to say about the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid itself, calling it "quite possibly the most beautiful four-door sedan ever" and that the powertrain technology was ground-breaking (while acknowledging that it is similar to what the Volt uses). But there were a host of problems: battery pack issues, the A123 bankruptcy, losing 800 Karmas in New Jersey following the hurricane and producing a very small volume of cars for sale all worked together to place Fisker in world of trouble, Lutz wrote.
GM, on the other hand, was dragged down by "overwhelming legacy costs." Lutz didn't elaborate, but these are usually considered to come from GM's labor union contracts and the massive costs of manufacturing too many cars through too many brands. In short, Lutz is basically saying GM was too big to fail but an ambitious start-up like Fisker is not a good investment. But he did forgot to mention Tesla Motors, another DOE automotive loan recipient that seems to be working out pretty well.
The Fisker Karma is "quite possibly the most beautiful four-door sedan ever" - Bob Lutz.
Lutz wants to see Fisker survive, if for no other reason than to support his investment in VL Destino which he designed with industrialist Gilbert Villereal. This performance sedan is built using a Karma body with with a Corvette drivetrain and Lutz says demand is strong for the VL Destino while electric Karmas are just languishing on dealer lots. He also wrote, "The green craze is, frankly, ebbing, and interest in conventional cars remains strong."
In the end, Lutz waffles on the question he poses, saying that whether or not Fisker should be given more federal money is, "A tough call. Glad I don't have to make it!" Click through to read the full Forbes article.