WASHINGTON – Fisker Automotive, whose sleek, sporty electric cars caught the eye of Justin Bieber and other celebrities, has filed for bankruptcy protection.
The California-based company also announced it had entered an asset purchase agreement with Hybrid Tech Holdings, LLC.
“After having evaluated and pursued all other alternatives, we believe the sale to Hybrid and the related Chapter 11 process is the best alternative for maximizing Fisker Automotive’s value for the benefit of all stakeholders,” Marc Beilinson, Fisker’s chief restructuring officer, said in a statement Friday.
“We believe that the Fisker Automotive technology and product development capability will remain a guiding force in the evolution of the automotive industry under Hybrid’s leadership.”
Fisker was started in southern California in 2007 by former Aston Martin and BMW designer Henrik Fisker and German business partner Bernhard Koehler.
While it did not have the expected success with its sleek hybrid Karma sports car — which it billed as “a bold expression of uncompromised responsible luxury” — it did attract interest from the likes of stars such as Bieber, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ashton Kutcher.
With a price tag of about $100,000, the 2012 Karma sedan boasts an all-electric “Stealth Mode” and a fuel-assisted “Sport Mode,” according to the company’s website.
Having struggled financially for some time, Fisker announced in April that it was laying off 75 percent of its workforce.
What happens next remains to be seen.
The Wall Street Journal quoted a spokeswoman for Hybrid Technology, parent company of Hybrid Tech Holdings, as saying it was “committed to building upon the Fisker legacy and presence in the United States as a foundation for the design and manufacture of advanced hybrid electric vehicles.”
The bankruptcy could become a political hot potato because the US government had focused on Fisker to encourage the development of green energy,providing it with loans.
The Journal cited the Department of Energy as saying it had recovered $53 million of the $192 million Fisker owed to the government, leaving $139 million unpaid.
Two Republican members of Congress — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee head Tim Murphy — have already lashed out over the matter.
“Fisker’s collapse closes yet another sad chapter in (the Department of Energy’s) troubled portfolio,” they said in a joint statement.
“The jobs that were promised never materialized and, once again, taxpayers are on the hook for the administration’s reckless gamble.”
In their remarks, the lawmakers referenced solar energy firm Solyndra, which was the recipient of a $535 million government loan guarantee and also ended up filing for bankruptcy.
During the 2012 US presidential election campaign, Republicans repeatedly seized on the California-based company’s demise, once hailed as a shining example of President Barack Obama’s push to create green jobs and compete with rival China in a new energy economy.