Fisker Ekes Out $3M to Put Finishing Touches on Its Swanky Electric Car

By dancurranjr On March 9th, 2009

fisker-karmaFisker Automotive, maker of a luxury plug-in hybrid vehicle called the Karma, has squeezed an additional $3 million out of its private investors, bringing its total capital raised to more than $100 million — a staggering feat considering the state of the credit market. The Irvine, Calif. company raked in $65 million in September but says the recent addition to its third round is just the right amount to put finishing touches on the Karma before it rolls into showrooms.

Fisker is also trying to get its hands on some of the government’s newly allocated cleantech money. It has already applied for a few low-interest federal loans offered through the Department of Energy, which it says it would use to begin developing a more practical, lower-end vehicle. This seems like a smart move for a company that will attempt to sell its primary product for $87,900 a pop in a down economy. But for now, the $3 million will be split between fine-tuning the Karma and a stake in an undisclosed battery company. The latter will be critical to securing an exclusive supply of batteries compatible with the company’s vehicles, Fisker spokesperson Russell Datz told Earth2Tech.

If all goes well, the Karma will officially go on sale by the end of 2009. The company announced a partnership with General Motors a while back to use the automotive giant’s four-cylinder engine in the Karma (bringing it a giant step closer to reality), and it’s already hard at work tapping prospective dealers. The cars themselves are slated to be manufactured by Valmet Automotive in Finland at a rate of 1,200 a month (or 15,000 a year) by mid-2010, dependent on demand, of course.

Comparisons are often drawn between Fisker and Silicon Valley-native Tesla Motors, which also specializes in high-end models (just look at its pretty little roadster). But as VentureBeat has pointed out in the past, Fisker differs in its decision to use plug-in hybrid electric technology instead of going fully electric. The choice should make the Karma more practical for regular and long-distance driving (as practical as a $90k luxury car can be). It seems to have also distinguished itself by approaching its goals more deliberately and scaling its expectations to fit its finances. Both Tesla and similar company Think Global ran into money trouble not too long ago, which forced both to turn to government sources of cash and stall their pipelines just to stay afloat.

Fisker’s latest funding rounds appear to have given it enough runway to withstand the bulk of the downturn (assuming it wraps up by mid-2010, as the White House hopes). And there’s no better indication of this than its November decision to open a 34,000-square-foot design house for 200 employees in Michigan.

The $3 million addition came from Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Al Gharrafa Investment, Palo Alto Investors and Thomas Lloyd Capital. Qatar Investment Authority joined existing investors in the $65 million tranche in the fall.

SOURCE: Venture Beat

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