Senators Question DoE Loans To Fisker, Cite Qatar Investment

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2012 Fisker Karma

2012 Fisker Karma

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It's fair to say Silicon Valley start-up Tesla Motors is on a high at the moment.

The first owners finally have their brand new 2012 Tesla Model S cars, and the company is receiving plenty of positive media attention. Meanwhile, its rival Fisker has been much quieter--and when there has been news, it's often been from outside the company.

That trend doesn't look like letting up any time soon. The Detroit News reports that two U.S. senators are now pushing the Department of Energy to answer questions about its loans to Fisker Automotive and troubled battery start-up A123.

The DoE loaned $529 million to Fisker Automotive, and awarded $249 million in grants to A123--themselves in the headlines after faulty batteries in Fisker vehicles, and a serious battery explosion at a GM tech center.

The two senators, Sen. Chuck Grassley [R-IA] and Sen. John Thune [R-SD] , wrote a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, asking "Why should the American taxpayer have to accept the credit risk of a company owned by a foreign government?"

Fisker, whose cars are designed in the U.S. and built in Finland, is part-owned by the Qatar Investment Authority. Fisker responded by saying that the company has already generated more than $100 million in revenue, that it is focusing on creating American jobs, and that it wants to avoid politics.

Fisker has been unable to access the full amount of money allocated, with its loan frozen due to concerns over its business plan.

A123 has not yet used all of its $249 million grant, but both senators question whether this will be released, following its $55 million faulty battery recall. The company is currently unprofitable, with a first-quarter loss this year of $125 million, up 133 percent from 2011.

Both Fisker's upcoming Atlantic and A123's new lithium-ion battery plant plans have been delayed, prompting questions of both companies.

Can either recover? For the sake of the electric car industry, it's vital that they do--but Fisker and A123 will no doubt be wishing for a share of Tesla's good press right now.

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