Earlier this year, all eyes were on the Chinese takeover of troubled Massachusetts lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems LLC, which had received a U.S. Department of Energy grant aimed at stimulating the alternative fuel industry. But apparently the buyer, Hangzhou automotive components manufacturer Wanxiang Group Corp. and Auburn Hills, Mich., boutique car maker VL Automotive, has had its sights leveled at A123’s owner: Fisker Automotive Inc., which is in so much financial trouble it hasn’t made a car in almost a year.
According to unnamed sources who spoke to Reuters, the two companies are eyeing the acquisition of Fisker through bankruptcy in talks that could break down at any time. Meanwhile, Hong Kong billionaire Rochard Li and a group of unnamed co-investors in Europe and Hong Kong are reportedly eyeing to take control of the Department of Energy’s stake in the company, which took $192 million of a $529 million loan before the government closed the line of credit after the company missed important performance targets -- namely that the six-figure plug-in hybrid it produces, the Karma, received little interest form American consumers that could afford the car.
The two potential buyers would have different interests in Fisker:
With a few stylistic changes, VL Automotive, led by former General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) Vice Chairman Robert Lutz, is turning the Karma into the Destino, an eight-cylinder gas-guzzling sports car priced toward $200,000. The car, obviously aimed at the ultra-luxury auto market, is built on the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 platform and debuted on the periphery of the Detroit Auto Show in January.
Meanwhile, Wanxiang could gain partial control over Fisker and potentially manufacture and sell the hybrid plug-in in China, where the government is promoting the use of electric vehicles to help reduce demand for fuel imports and mitigate air contamination in the country’s pollution-clogged industrial cities.
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This week, a judge approved the bankruptcy plan of A123 Systems, which was renamed B456 Systems Inc. in March.