Could you have guessed we’re but seven months from a presidential election? Because, if you couldn’t, there’s plenty of political ninny fighting and bickering going on every day in Congress to remind you.
The latest comes from Republican senators Charles Grassley (Iowa) and John Thune (South Dakota), who both asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu as to why the Obama Administration granted a $529 million federal loan to startup luxury hybrid automaker Fisker Automotive.
“Though the Department of Energy has now frozen the remaining portion of Fisker’s loan, questions remain as to why a loan was extended to this now ‘troubled’ auto company in the first place,” the two wrote jointly in an April 20 letter released this week.
The loan was created in 2009 by the Department of Energy to help “green” initiatives, and it did just that. Fisker used a fraction of its funds to create and build its $107,000 Karma plug-in hybrid sedan, which is produced in Finland. Under the DOE program, the automaker was also to receive General Motors’ disused Wilmington, Del., plant that used to make the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars. It was being retooled for the upcoming Fisker Atlantic sedan, which was set to retail for around $50,000. But the Karma was running late, the DOE dried up its funding, Fisker moved its employees out of the soon-to-be-renovated Delaware plant, and Fisker started seeking capital outside its government loan.
The DOE is working to figure out the “best path forward so the company can meet its benchmarks, produce cars and employ workers” on U.S. soil. Of course, that would be the best thing to do since the Fisker Karma has proven popular with celebrities and the well-to-do alike, and the Atlantic had a warm reception in New York.
But, because there’s this election going on in November, Fisker has become the next Solyndra in some politicians’ minds. Its Finnish-built Karma has become a punching bag despite the fact that it’s built in one of the most affordable, purpose-built, low-volume manufacturing facilities in the world. It would have been impossible for Fisker to build it in the U.S. And even with one of the best facilities at its disposal, quality concerns still delayed it for some time.
Fisker, much like the Chevrolet Volt, is more of a talking point than something with four wheels that’s designed to transport people. It’s a political volley, whereby Republicans will smite Democrats for the political improprieties, and Democrats will counter that Republicans are Luddites with no idea how to move America forward and advance our technological know-how.
Sure, to them, it’s just words. It’s political pandering to get the weak of mind to cross the line and join their sides. But, at the end of the day, several hundred million dollars in DOE money have already been spent. It’d be best not to lose that money to a potential bankruptcy, and American jobs are now officially on the line with these green startups, whether they were smart to fund in the first place or not.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)