Few car companies can’t wait for 2012 to end more than Fisker , as it combated quality issues, loan freezing and supplier bankruptcy throughout the year. Well, it looks like drama is going to follow the electric-car company into the New Year, unfortunately. As we already know, 338 Karmas were damaged during hurricane Sandy and some 16 units actually caught fire – not related to any faults by Fisker – and an insurance claim was submitted.
Apparently, the insurance company decided to void the claim after reviewing the claim. According to the report from Reuters, the issue becomes whether the damaged Karmas were “in transit” when they were damaged. In the case of “in transit” vehicles, sublimits beyond the $100 million limit on the insurance policy would apply.
In response to the denial, Fisker has filed a lawsuit against the company in an effort to get a court order for the insurance company – XL Insurance America – to pay the claim and for damages caused by the breach of contract. Hopefully Fisker can sort this out and get itself on track, as we were extremely impressed by the Karma on our test drive and we would hate to see any more hiccups in the vehicle’s production.
Aston Martin is one of the few niche automakers that is almost going it alone, as Ford only holds a 15-percent share in the premium sports car company and the rest is shared between privateer David Richards, and Kuwaiti investment firms Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co. Of those three, Investment Dar owns the majority of the company, which sits at 68 percent.
According to reports from Bloomberg Businessweek, Investment Dar is searching for a new home for Aston, but having a rough time selling the brand. It is trying to sell its share of the company for the same $800 million that it bought the company for just five years ago. One possible buyer is Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., the current owner of SsanYong, but it appears as if Mahindra is not in the market to blow that kind of cash on the British automaker.
Another potential suitor, which is a bit of a surprise, is Toyota. The Japanese automaker actually went as far as to hire an outside auditor to do a week-long survey on the possibility of buying Aston Martin. From the looks of things, that audit didn’t turn out too well, as that happened two months ago and there is still no movement by Toyota.
As expected, Toyota and Mahindra declined to comment on the situation, and Investment Dar outright denied the claims that Aston is up for sale. Regardless of denials and lack of confirmation, the debt that Aston Martin has accumulated – about 1.37 billion dinars ($4.9 billion at the current exchange rates) – via an Islamic bond needs to be paid off and selling the company may be the only option.
Short of that, we may see Aston Martin go the way of the dodo bird…
After nearly a year of seeing Mitt Romney and Barack Obama fling mud – maybe even a little poo – back and forth at each other, the election is finally over. Love him or hate him, Obama is in office for another four years and he has already shown that he likes to dwell in the automotive realm (see: automotive bailout, Chrysler bankruptcy, and DOE loans for EV technology).
A big one on our radar these days is the renewal of the CAFÉ standards – yes, it was a renewal; the CAFÉ standards are nothing new – and their direct impact on the sport car realm. By the year 2025, all automakers must have a corporate average fuel economy rating of at least 54.5 mpg, a number that sports cars often drag down.
There is a good possibility that one of three things will happen due to these standards. First, is the chance that automakers install more advance turbocharging technologies on vehicles in order to keep their power output high and fuel economy high too. With those technologies come rising price tags – something we are already experiencing today. The second – most unlikely – scenario is the complete elimination of all powerful sports cars, leaving behind just the likes of the underpowered-for-a-true-sports-car Scion FR-S -like vehicles. The third scenario is one that would satisfy our itch for fast cars and the EPA’s itch for eco-friendly cars, and that is the widespread development of super powerful electric, hydrogen fuel cell or natural gas sports cars.
The latter situation is one that we already know is possible. Have a look as the Tesla Model S and you’ll see a car that can travel 300 miles on a charge and still zip to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. And that is a rather large sedan, so imagine it as a sports car. Same goes for the mid-5-second sprint to 60 mph that the 5,000-pound Fisker Karma completes. The final example is the Maxximus LNG 2000 and its 1,600-horsepower natural-gas-powered engine.
We think that this renewal of Obama’s stay at the White House won’t necessarily bring about the conversion to alternative fuel sports cars in the next four years, but it will certainly accelerate the process significantly. We honestly think it is a thing to look forward too, not be afraid of. Just think, no more gas station trips!!
The Ford Focus ST has quickly become one of our favorite hot hatchbacks on the market today, as the U.S.-spec model pumps out a monstrous 252 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, and gets this hatchback to 60 mph in just 6.2 seconds. The UK-spec Focus ST is slightly detuned – wow, we actually got the upper hand in performance for once – as it has 250 PS (246 horsepower) and 360 Nm (265 pound-feet) of torque, which gets it to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds and gives it a 154 mph top speed.
Apparently, the UK thinks so highly of Ford’s newest version of the Focus that it has been approved by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) for use by UK police officers. While Ford does not go into many specifics about what’s under the hood, we assume by the lack of information that this Police Patrol Vehicle pumps out the same 250 PS and 360 Nm of torque, which will give it a huge upper hand on most of the cars roaming the streets of the UK.
Inside, the Ford Focus ST PPV is a mobile data terminal, which allows the police to activate the various functions of the car and likely acts as the in-car computer system for checking up on bad guys. Atop the Focus’s compact body sits the obligatory blue-and-white light bar boasting long-lasting LED technology. The body of the demonstrator car that Ford is dragging around the UK is draped in white with your typical police livery.
Local police forces can pick up the Focus ST PPV for £21,995 ($35,156 at the current exchange rates) in hatchback form or for £23,095 ($36,915) for the estate (wagon) model.
Last month, Koenigsegg unveiled the very cool Agera R BLT - a one-off supercar specially customized for a very rich Chinese customer using the company’s latest customer customization program. Unfortunately, the owner never had a chance to enjoy his one-off supercar because the Chinese officials have already seized the car.
Chinese officials stated that the car had been smuggled, since the driver never paid the import tax upon receipt of the vehicle. One look at the import tax and just about everyone will be able to see why the owner wanted to skip out on it. The Agera R BLT sold for $2.35 million, but after applying the import taxes, the price skyrocketed to $4.7 million - twice the value of the car. Yeah, anyone’s checkbook would raise an eyebrow on that one.
What makes the situation worse is that, according to the Chinese police, this seize is just part of a bigger anti-smuggling campaign that has netted vehicles from Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Porsche, Audi, and Range Rover. We all have to pay our taxes, people!
A123 has been put through the ringer in recent history, most notably with its massive battery recall, and now it is just about belly up. Things were starting to look up for the battery make when it announced that a $450 million deal had been reached with Wanxiang Group Corp, but that deal recently fell through.
Now the inevitable is upon A123, as news came across the board that A123 had filed for bankruptcy protection, despite having received a $249 million government grant. With this bankruptcy filing also comes the likely liquidation of its assets. It appears as if A123 has already gotten a head start on this liquidation by negotiating to sell off its automotive business to Johnson Controls – well-known for building nearly every lead-acid and gel battery sold.
The deal is not yet done, but it is reportedly for the sum of $125 million and will include the Fisker , GM, and BMW contracts that A123 has already inked. Part of the proposed deal includes Johnson Controls fronting A123 $72.5 million in “debtor possession” funds to keep the bankrupt company running while the sale is being completed. There is no timetable for the completion of the deal, but per the press release, things will continue as usual for A123 during the entire sale process.
All we can hope for is a full turnaround once this technology gets in the hands of Johnson Controls, as the fate of the EV realm rests heavily on the technologies developed by A123. This could possibly be part of the reason that Fisker wasn’t shy about announcing that the upcoming Atlantic was delayed. We’ll also keep an eye on the Chevy Spark EV project to see if that is put on hold until this situation is resolved.
We all know that Lotus has a lot of issues, but there has never been any confirmation of exactly how much trouble Lotus is really in. After DRB-Hicom requested a delay in tax payments to the Inland Revenue, people started looking a little closer.
According to reports, Lotus has about £30 million (roughly $48 million at the current exchange rates) in overdue debts to various suppliers. £23 million (roughly $36.8 million) of this debt is 90 days overdue and £7 million (roughly $11.2 million) of it is between 30 and 90 days overdue. Here comes the oddest of claims by DRB-Hicom; a source close to the company says that the blame for the overdue payments is related to prior management ::cough::Dany Bahar::cough::.
Okay, Bahar has been gone since late May and that means that DRB-Hicom has had full control of Lotus, and its bills, for over five months now. We will gladly give Bahar a lion’s share of the credit for taking one of the greatest sports car companies and flushing it down the toilet, however, we cannot put the blame on him for bills that are now three months overdue.
This issue falls directly on the plate of DRB-Hicom and the CEO it appointed to run Lotus, not Bahar and not any other previous management. Sure, previous management may have spent money that it didn’t have carelessly, but you have had five months to figure out how to pay the bills, so deal with it.
DRB-Hicom may start rethinking the £1 offer it received several months ago. That’s a small sum of money to hand someone a debt-burdened and troubled company… We’ll keep an eye out for more on this situation.
So, for anyone that watched the Debate last night – I did and I am suffering today thanks to the late evening – you saw presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, hit our sector a few times. One time, he took a direct swipe at two alternative-energy car companies in one statement. If you missed the statement, here it is:
"Now, I like green energy as well, but that’s about 50 years’ worth of what oil and gas receives," Romney said during the first of three Presidential debates. "You put $90 billion — like 50 years’ worth of breaks — into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said, you don’t just pick the winners and losers; you pick the losers."
Now, we’re not here to debate politics, but to call Tesla and Fisker “losers” is not quite fair. As a matter of fact, Tesla announced on Wednesday – the same day that Romney labeled it a “Loser” – that despite its struggles meeting delivery goals, which are due to supplier issues, it will become “cash-flow positive” by next month and will hit the 500-unit mark in just a few weeks.
Hitting that black in the ledger is a huge step for an upstart company and to see Tesla hitting it this soon is impressive. Musk also announced that despite criticisms of the DOE loan to Tesla , the company has always paid the loan installments on time and has never even given a thought to postponing the payments.
We are not too sure exactly what will come of Tesla in the long run, but it is already prepping the release of its second vehicle, the Model X SUV, and there is a light at the end of the very long upstart tunnel for Musk and Tesla. We’ll keep an eye on the ledger sheet and let you know if Tesla meets this anticipated milestone on time or not.
Click past the jump to read Mr. Musk’s blogged press release.
In the dust stirred up by Dany Bahar, we managed to miss the fact that DRB-Hicom also dismissed two senior executives from Lotus for “gross misconduct.” One was the 6-year head of legal resources and the other had 17 years in as the head of human resources. These employees are now taking Lotus to an employment tribunal saying that they were dismissed unfairly, were harassed, and had to endure sexual and racial discrimination by the new Lotus parent.
From the report, the two fired executives underwent “intense interrogation sessions” after DRB-Hicom took over and started investigating the actions of Bahar. They are also claiming that the management company is more interested in “Malaysianizing” the company rather than fixing it.
One lawsuit is a random happening, but to get three lawsuits for very similar cases seems like a trend to us. Maybe Bahar isn’t all wrong in this entire thing. The man is certainly at fault for using corporate money like it was his own personal Monopoly bank , but maybe his termination was a little bit less on the “up and up” as we anticipated.
All of this is coming straight on the heels of DRB-Hicom announcing that it is in talks to bring in a foreign partner to help clean up Proton Holdings Bhd, which includes Lotus. We’ll keep an eye on this to see if it may negatively impact the talks that are going on between the Malaysian company and its potential foreign partner.
It has been a little while since we last checked in on Lotus and its ongoing woes, but we have a small bit of news to pass on. There has been much speculation that DRB-Hicom has been considering offloading some or all of the Proton and Lotus money vacuum to the highest bidder. We all assumed it would be Volkswagen AG, but V-Dub has recently said that it is done with acquisitions, for now.
Reports out of Malaysia say that DRB-Hicom is now working on bringing in a “Foreign partner” to Proton Holdings Bhd, Lotus’s direct parent company. The reports are stating that the talks about this introduction are still in preliminary phases, but the announcement of talks alone is enough to tell us that DRB-Hicom is seriously looking into a way to stop the bleeding via an outside source.
With Volkswagen saying that it has stopped only acquisitions leads us to suspect that it has a small hand in these talks. Volkswagen and DRB-Hicom could easily enter into a nudge-wink type of relationship, much like the VW-Porsche takeover, and reap the benefits without much risk by simply becoming partners then later deciding to “restructure” the partnership.
This would ultimately give VW a clear port of entry into Southeast Asia – something it sorely needs – and give DRB-Hicom some much-needed financial relief and maybe a little boost in sales. Also, with Volkswagen’s reputation of turning around faltering car companies, a Volkswagen-DRB-Hicom-Proton Bdh partnership could ultimately save Lotus from potential extinction.
As we said, the discussions are preliminary and there is no confirmation that the talks even involve VW. It just seems like a perfect fit for every party involved. We’ll keep you updated on this as more information comes out.