2012 Fisker Karma during road test, Los Angeles, Feb 2012Enlarge Photo
The main task for Fisker Automotive right now is to sell enough 2012 Fisker Karmas to keep the company solvent.
It must take in enough cash to market the car, expand into new markets, and simultaneously develop its next vehicle, the Fisker Atlantic unveiled at the New York Auto Show.
Now we learn, courtesy of Bloomberg, that the U.S. Department of Energy--one of Fisker's major creditors--hired a restructuring expert last October to track the progress of certain companies in its loan portfolio, presumably including Fisker's efforts to raise more private capital.
While the DoE did not specifically comment on Fisker, it confirmed that the department "often hires industry-leading consultants to supplement the work performed" by its own staff on "a variety of projects in the portfolio."
The firm is Houlihan Lokey of Los Angeles, which is working for the department under a $1.35 million contract awarded last October to look at several troubled companies in the portfolio. Its contract lasts through November 15.
On Monday, Sen. Chuck Grassley [R-IA] called Fisker "one of the more unusual" recipients of DoE loans under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, or ATVM, in a letter to energy secretary Steven Chu.
Dr. Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy
At the New York show earlier this month, Fisker executives said the company had raised about $130 million from private investors in its latest financing round, bringing the total for this round to more than $300 million.
That money will go toward compensating for the $336 million in remaining low-interest loans that Fisker will not get after the DoE froze disbursement of all further funds last May.
The cause was repeated delays that caused Fisker to miss milestones for getting the Karma into production and on sale--milestones, it's worth noting, that had already been delayed once by the DoE.
The loan freeze by the DoE, plus the launch delays and multiple quality issues in early Karmas, caused Fisker to lay off employees and, it said in November, suspend development of what is now called the Atlantic.