LOS ANGELES -- Fisker Automotive's CEO, warning of the pitfalls facing independent small automakers, says the luxury plug-in hybrid manufacturer is poised to partner with other automakers next year.
Tony Posawatz, Fisker's CEO and former chief engineer of the Chevrolet Volt, says Fisker is in talks for three potential deals in which executives at the "highest levels" of the companies involved are "talking specifics."
"We are absolutely committed to making this company win longer term, and the history of smaller companies living on their own in the automotive business is not stellar," Posawatz said. "We are not going to go it alone."
Deals could be completed within the next year, he said.
Posawatz declined to identify the suitors. It's not clear if a possible acquisition or equity tie-ups are on the table.
Posawatz: In talks for three potential deals
Posawatz said Fisker is shopping its extended-range electric drive technology system, its "parts bin" of plug-in hybrid components and its automobile design expertise to potential suitors.
The most promising avenue for Fisker is licensing its powertrain systems to companies looking to boost the fuel efficiency of their products quickly, Posawatz said, noting that the Karma already meets federal fuel economy standards that will be required in 2025.
Meanwhile, production of Fisker's first vehicle, the $100,000-plus Karma sedan, has stopped because of a shortage of lithium ion batteries. The supplier, A123 Systems, has not been producing batteries while in bankruptcy. Posawatz said he expects to resolve the Karma's battery supply situation by the end of December and hopes to resume building Karmas soon after.
"Whoever buys the assets and intends to support that business is going to be our supplier," Posawatz said.
Posawatz said Fisker has fewer than 1,000 Karmas in inventory and said supplies could be exhausted by spring without additional production. Fisker does not disclose Karma sales figures, saying only that more than 1,000 units have been sold since its October 2011 launch.
Fisker also is trying to secure funding to launch its second vehicle, the Atlantic sedan. Posawatz reaffirmed that 90 percent of the engineering and design work has been completed and said the company intends to build the Atlantic in Wilmington, Del. Parts integration work must be completed, and the company has yet to begin contracting suppliers.
Production of Fisker’s Karma is on hold because of a battery supplier’s problems.
A planned Midwest technical center should accelerate those efforts, once sufficient funding is secured, because of the proximity to suppliers concentrated in the region and the deep pool of engineering talent, he said.
"There's no sense starting a program if you're going to run out [of funding] at some point in time. As my wife tells me when I go to Home Depot, 'Tony, measure twice and cut once,'" he said. "You want to make sure you have your capital sources lined up."
Posawatz declined to specify how much money the company needs to raise or discuss its cash-burn rate.
He acknowledged, though, that the company has laid off employees in California to make room for the new hires in Detroit: "As with any company, if you're going to hire a bunch of people in Detroit, you're going to need to adjust your organization to plan for that."