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Fisker Automotive may reopen idled GM plant

The Irvine carmaker, which received a U.S. loan, reportedly will make plug-in hybrids at a factory in Delaware, Vice President Joe Biden's home state.

October 26, 2009|Meg James

The White House is expected to announce this week that an Irvine automaker will be setting up shop in a recently idled General Motors plant in Vice President Joe Biden's home state of Delaware.

A source in the vice president's office said Sunday that Biden would be making an announcement at the closed plant on Tuesday but would not provide further details.

The Associated Press reported that Fisker Automotive Inc. of Irvine intended to revamp a Delaware factory for use to produce one of its two electric plug-in hybrid vehicles.

A Fisker spokeswoman declined to comment.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy said that it would lend Fisker $528 million to help it develop and manufacture its two hybrid vehicle models.

At the time, Fisker said it would use the bulk of the money, or nearly $360 million, to develop a more affordable second-generation car, presumably the model slated for the Delaware factory.

The loan to Fisker is part of a $25-billion federal program intended to boost the economy and spur development of alternative vehicles. Fisker's cars run on electricity and gasoline.

When the federal loan was announced, Fisker did not identify where it planned to build its "Project Nina" model other than at "a retooled U.S. assembly plant."

In late July, GM closed its Boxwood Road plant near the city of Newport. It was the last auto plant in Delaware, and the closure seemingly marked the end of an industry in the small state that had brought prosperity to thousands of people for six decades.

Biden was a senator from Delaware until he was elected vice president last year.

The closed Delaware plant -- which most recently produced the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice -- opened in 1947. In the last year, Chrysler also suspended operations at another Delaware plant, eliminating more than 1,000 positions.

It was unclear Sunday whether any jobs in Irvine would be shifted to Delaware.

Fisker, on its website, said that it planned to use $359.3 million of the federal loan to support its Project Nina and would manufacture 75,000 to 100,000 plug-in hybrids a year beginning in 2012. The car is expected to sell for $39,900, after federal tax credits.

Fisker's first-generation car, the luxury Karma, has a base price of $87,900. That version, which is being built in Finland by Valmet Automotive, was engineered to have an all-electric range of at least 50 miles before the need for gas.

Fisker said that it would allocate $169.3 million of the federal money to work with U.S. suppliers to complete the engineering work on the Karma model, with those functions primarily handled in Irvine and Pontiac, Mich.


Times staff writer Peter Nicholas contributed to this report.

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