Fisker Misses DoE Loan Payment; House Hearing Tomorrow

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Henrik Fisker

Henrik Fisker

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The fortunes of the two highest-profile electric-car startups couldn't be diverging more starkly today.

Yesterday, Fisker Automotive failed to make a payment of $10 million on the $192 million of low-interest loan funds it received from the U.S. Department of Energy.

And tomorrow company executives face a grilling by the House of Representatives panel on Economic Growth, Job Creation, and Regulatory Affairs, chaired by Representative Darryl Issa [R-CA], who has proven himself no fan of plug-in electric cars--or government loans to their makers.

Meanwhile, the stock of Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] opened at $51.00 this morning, an all-time high opening price.

Some Tesla investors speculate that others who shorted the stock are now being squeezed, and will soon have to purchase it at any price to cover their positions.

But back to Fisker.

A DoE spokesperson quoted in The Detroit News said that the department had recouped $21 million of the $192 million loan thus far.

And the title of tomorrow's 2 pm hearing, Green Energy Oversight: Examining the Department of Energy's Bad Bet on Fisker Automotive, promises some rocky hours for Fisker CEO Tony Posawatz.

If he appears, that is. As of today, he is listed as "invited".

The other witnesses are a supervisory senior investment officer from the DoE; Fisker's COO Bernhard Koehler; cofounder Henrik Fisker; and a fellow from The Heritage Foundation, a "conservative research think tank" in Washington, D.C.

Fisker himself left the company last month in a disagreement over strategic direction, so he may have some points of view that diverge from those of Posawatz and Koehler.

Whether the hearing will be an impartial assessment of the facts or not may be open to some debate.

At an electric-car event last week, the consensus among a handful of Beltway reporters was that it would likely serve as a platform for Issa to attack what he has termed the "failed green agenda" of President Barack Obama.

The phrase "show trial" was even used by one cynical observer.

None of which goes to obscure the fact that, as of today, it would appear that Fisker Automotive cannot pay back about $170 million of taxpayer loans.

The company has a long and tortured history of big promises and missed deadlines, and the first several hundred examples of its one vehicle--roughly 2,000 Karma electric sport sedans were built--were riddled with quality issues when the car finally launched.

The next remaining news item may well be a formal bankruptcy filing by Fisker.

Until that point, watch the DC press for detailed accounts of tomorrow's hearing.

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