Yet Another Chinese Suitor For Fisker: BAIC Kicks The Tires

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Fisker Atlantic concept unveiling before New York Auto Show, April 2012

Fisker Atlantic concept unveiling before New York Auto Show, April 2012

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We haven't heard much about Fisker Automotive in the last few months.

The company still hasn't declared bankruptcy, it hasn't yet been bought, and it is still apparently in default on its Department of Energy loans.

But now there's a new suitor who's at least kicking the tires.

According to China Daily, the Beijing Automotive group (BAIC) visited Fisker's headquarters in southern California last weekend.

Earlier Chinese suitors who've assessed Fisker--but not closed acquisition deals--include Volvo owner Geely Automotive, and the owner of A123 Systems, Wanxiang, which is China's largest auto-parts maker.

BAIC has little in-house experience with plug-in electric cars, and while electrics are still not selling to cost-conscious Chinese car buyers in any appreciable numbers yet, BAIC sees the writing on the wall.

A BAIC executive said recently that the company would introduce an electric car that would compete with the Tesla Model S in 2015.

That prospect seems like something of a stretch.

Even BYD, which has five years' experience building plug-in vehicles of various sorts, has not yet been able to build a vehicle that could be certified for sale in North America and meet U.S. customer expectations for quality, performance, and safety.

According to the report, BAIC is interested not in the Fisker Karma range-extended electric luxury sedan--of which 2,000 or more were built before production halted a year ago--but Fisker's next model, the smaller Atlantic sport sedan.

BAIC C60F Concept

BAIC C60F Concept

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The Fisker Atlantic debuted at the 2012 New York Auto Show, but its development almost surely remains to be completed after two years of cash crises, recalls, bad news, and dealer defections for Fisker.

Last fall, the Atlantic was delayed at least to late 2014--and little if anyprogress has likely been made since then.

We may hear more on this in due course.

Or we may not.

At some point Fisker will either get adopted or fade away altogether.

By then, will it matter either way?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (14)
  1. I think all interest has been lost, even if they could start-up again they won't be able to shake off their reputation for poor build quality. Rebuilding consumer confidence in Fisker is almost as big a challenge as finding a buyer for the company.

  2. They do not have a reputation for poor quality. Where did you get that? They had a management problem more than anything else and they can easily get around that with new effective management and proper marketing.

  3. Um let's see having driven a Karma and in keeping up with news articles, poor panel gaps, the worst infotainment display ever, it's slow performance wise, it's had numerous recalls, oh and we can't forget all the fires. Where did I get that, I looked at buying one, I researched it, and found it to be poorly put together. No management wasn't their biggest problem, their product didn't compare well against any other car on the market. The only thing the Karma did right was look good there was little else.

  4. Oh you drove one once so you are an expert. If you think that keeping up with the agenda driven media's news articles is a good source than you are part of the problem. The only panel gaps that were poor were on the top points of the front bumper. The infotainment came out slow but improved as software upgrades were done. It did not have "numerous recalls" and even if it did it wasn't unexpected from a start up car company with brand new technology. We can't possibly forget ALL the fires clearly your media sources won't. I see the them as bad but also there is good information that came from it that was NEVER reported. It is late, I will finish my point tomorrow.

  5. @Greg: Not quite.

    The worst of a few mismatched panel gaps on early Fiskers were (a) top of the rear door openings, where the door and body side gaped so widely that the rubber seal bulged through--a detail so unacceptable you'll find it on NO new car sold today; and (b) the left-front fender did not have the same peak over the wheel where it adjoined the hood as the arch of the hood panel itself. Running your finger along the left hood edge from the front of the car back proved the mismatch, which was clearly visible.

    I checked both details on at least half a dozen Fiskers at the media launch drive event. Every one had those same problems. Didn't actually notice the front bumper, LOL.

  6. @ Greg, you are the problem you assume too much. I am a long time car enthusiast I know how to look over a car I'm thinking of buying. The panel gaps I noticed are the same pointed out by John Voelcker, I also noticed the bumper as you pointed out, but the first car I test drove had huge gaps around the trunk I could fit my pinky finger in. And yes the recalls we're very evident, my first of three test drives was actually the second attempt to drive one because the first Karma I saw was not allowed out until a recall service was performed. I form my own opinions through personal experience, and in the Karma I experienced the same flaws the media later reported on.

  7. @Greg: I drove the Karma on the car's official media reveal, and the quality was atrocious. It's all out there in multiple media reports, and we've covered much of it here.

    Just ONE example: When the instrument panel went black during a drive, the PR person cheerfully suggested we pull over, shut down the car, wait 5 minutes for it to go to sleep, and then reboot..."and everything will be fine."

    When suggested that GM or Toyota wouldn't possibly release a product with such an obvious error, he replied cheerfully, "Well, that's why we rely on our early customers to tell us about these little issues."

    The car simply wasn't ready for primetime.

  8. @John. Yes, It was definitely rushed to market and although it looked nice it suffered from poor quality control. Tesla did it right when they ramped up production slowly making sure they had all the problems worked out before putting it up for sale. Fisker seemingly slapped them together as fast as it could and their quality control appeared to be as bad as old Detroit cars from the 1970's in body panel fit. Also it was big and heavy and relatively slow and not all that fuel efficient either. Also it suffered from many recalls and had many battery/engine fires occurred that resulted in the loss of the car and peoples property as well. It would be a gamble for anyone to try to buy the nameplate simply because of liability reasons.

  9. @Mark: And one of the most perplexing things is that the Valmet plant in Finland that assembled the Karmas previously built Boxsters for Porsche, which clearly wouldn't have put up with the mismatched panel fits, the rubber insulation bulging out of seams, etc. that the early Karmas had.

    I suspect Fisker simply didn't hire the right QC staff, or the need to start "production" for business reasons outweighed the lousy quality.

    Not sure about liability being such a huge issue, though. I'd argue the main deterrent to buying Fisker today is the political complications of the DoE loans on which it defaulted. That'd be a $192 million cost on top of whatever you have to invest in the company...

  10. Since much of the general public doesn't stay as well informed as many on this site, they may be able to skirt the reputation problem simply because not many people know much about them.

  11. I think BAIC is correct. With the current Tesla S dominating the high end luxury plugin segement, there is little value in the Karma. However, the Atlantic is promising, especially if it can lower the price down to the $35k range. It will be direct competition to the Volt (plugin sales leader) and potentially other midsize BEVs.

    I think BAIC wants the technology, not necessarily the brand or all the liability associated with it.

  12. The Karma was NEVER supposed to be the staple of the company. The Atlantic was ALWAYS supposed to be there bread and butter. It would have to be priced higher than $35k and should be. That would be like pricing a Cadillac CTS the same as a Chevy Malibu. The Volt is not a Luxury car the Atlantic would be.

  13. If Karma wasn't suppose to be, then why bother with it. Why didn't they just come out with the Atlantic first and work their way up.

    If the Karma was as cramped as a compact car, then there isn't much "luxury" is there.

  14. Good for them. The more electric car companies the better, be they American, Chinese and whomever. It's a vast potential market for a new automotive industry that could save the planet from itself.

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