It’s no surprise that the media has been having a field day with the story of Fisker Automotive’s apparently terminal troubles. “Pissing away taxpayer money on useless boondoggles” was one of the more charitable descriptions of the situation to be found over on the rightward side of the dial.
Even more neutral observers noted the political damage. “Politically it’s obviously not a good thing,” said Jeremy Anwyl of auto consultant Edmunds.com. “This is going to be another Solyndra, a poster child for perhaps a lack of due diligence on the part of the federal government when it’s investing funds.”
Some support electrification, but are suspicious of government support for individual companies. Rebecca Lindland, an industry analyst who serves on a DOE committee that’s preparing a report on ways to encourage EV adoption, told Bloomberg that the government should promote high-tech vehicles without propping up the companies manufacturing them. “It reminds me of the role of government in sports. Often you will hear that the government will relax taxation when it comes to stadiums, but they’re not providing the payroll.”
DOE spokeswoman Aoife McCarthy responded to the criticism. “Despite Fisker’s difficulties, our overall loan portfolio of more than 30 projects continues to perform very well, and more than 90 percent of the $10 billion loan loss reserve that Congress set aside for these programs remains intact. Sales of electric vehicles tripled last year, and we just can’t afford to sit on the sidelines in the global race to capture this rapidly expanding market.”
Dan Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign put things more colorfully: “I don’t think that companies that bring us the Hummer…are going to bring us clean vehicles without any major government involvement. If we want to buy all of our electric cars in the future from China, then absolutely we should stop helping the electric vehicle industry in the US.”
Politician-turned-pundit Sarah Palin got a lot of press for a Facebook post in which she said:
Once again, the American public lost when the Obama administration attempted to pick “winners and losers” in the free market. Today the electric car company Fisker Automotive, which received nearly $200 million in taxpayer money, is laying off three-fourths of its US workers.
The Anaheim, CA-based startup has failed at pretty much every level – especially when it comes to the company’s ultra-expensive luxury electric hybrid, the Karma (what a name!), which is assembled in Finland and received a green-energy loan to transition the assembly to the US, something that never happened.
This losing tax-subsidized venture joins other past losers like the Obama-subsidized Volt that gets 40 miles per battery charge, or like the Obama-subsidized Tesla that turns into a “brick” when the battery completely discharges and then costs $40,000 to repair.
Ms Palin’s comments on Fisker are a legitimate statement of opinion, but it’s ludicrous to try to tar the Chevrolet Volt and Tesla with the same oily brush.
The Volt’s electric range (actually 38 miles for the 2013 model) is one of the longest offered by a production plug-in hybrid – only someone who doesn’t understand how PHEVs work could consider it a defect.
Tesla’s “bricking” problem was an issue only with the Roadster, which is no longer in production. According to the company, the Model S cannot be “bricked,” no matter how hard an auto reviewer may try, and if such a thing did happen, it would be covered under warranty.
Furthermore, anyone who could refer to a vehicle that will introduce its fourth model year in May (the Volt), and a company that has just announced that it will be fully profitable this quarter, and repay its DOE loan ahead of schedule (Tesla), as “past losers” must simply not have been reading the newspapers lately. And we in the EV media have long been puzzled by the relentless identification of President Obama with a car, and a loan program, that both began their lives under the Bush administration.
Worst of all, poor, sensitive Elon Musk got his feelings hurt. “Sarah Palin calls Tesla a loser,” Musk tweeted. “Am deeply wounded. BTW, Model S warranty does cover bricking.”