A production delay last week at Fisker Automotive had foes of the Obama administration snarling about Solyndra, the solar panel maker that went bankrupt after receiving a loan from the U.S. Department of Energy and became a political hand grenade.
But the comparison is overwrought, say the company and DOE.
Fisker last week suspended work at its plant in Wilmington, Del., and laid off 26 workers while it renegotiates its $529 million loan from the feds.
Solyndra's failure last year was seized upon by critics of the Obama administration, and Fisker's troubles got the pot boiling again. Said John Sigler, the Republican Party chairman of Delaware: "This is what happens when the government thinks it can pick winners and losers with our taxpayer money."
The electric-car startup has received $193 million of the DOE loan so far, mostly for the Finland-built Karma luxury car it introduced late last year. The $336 million balance is for Fisker's second vehicle, the Nina, to be produced in Wilmington. But that money was contingent on meeting development and sales milestones for the Karma. The deadlines were missed because of regulatory issues and battery pack problems that prompted a voluntary safety recall.
DOE said last week that it had not lost faith in the company. Spokesman Damien LaVera called Fisker's delays "common for startups."
Production of the Nina, scheduled to begin in mid-2013, could slip to a later date, the company said. But Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher told The
New York Times that comparisons between Fisker and Solyndra were unfounded.
"We have successfully brought the Karma to market, and it has gotten rave reviews in the media," he said. "The ramp-up of the Nina has been massively cash-intensive, and we've been very open about that."