Fisker Karma

At the beginning of 2014, it looked like Hybrid Tech Holdings LLC was going to buy the remains of Fisker Automotive for $25 million. Just before that sale was to take place, however, Wanxiang stepped in and an auction was therefore scheduled for the middle of February. After 19 rounds of apparently frantic bidding, Wanxiang drove away the winner with a $149.2-million bid. Despite the massive dollar run-up, the Department of Energy will not be recouping any extra money from its failed loan to Fisker in the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program.

Way back in 2010, the DOE made Fisker a loan commitment of $528 million but only ever gave the automaker $192 million before problems were identified and the ATVMP spigot was turned off. The DOE later said it "recouped more than $28 million from the company's accounts," which left $168 million unaccounted for. The DOE thus announced it would hold an auction for the remainder of Fisker's loan obligation, which was decidedly not all of the Fisker remains. That loan sale auction took place in December and was won by Hybrid Tech Holdings for $25 million, which means that the final cost to the DOE was $143 million.

The important thing to realize is that the $25 million in cash that made up Hybrid's original bid for the rest of the Fisker assets in the February auction in a Delaware bankruptcy court were the apples to the oranges of the $25 million used to buy the loan obligation in December. Since the DOE did not control - and never wanted to control - the Fisker assets, the DOE didn't get to recoup any more of the $143 million that Fisker owed on the loan despite the higher-than-expected ending price.

Clear as mud, right?