The decision by General Motors to suspend production of the Chevy Volt may seem like a bump in the road to an electric-car future. It got Rob Tornoe to wonder in his editorial cartoon.
So who wants to pay $100,000 for an electric sports car? Apparently, not as many people as Fisker hoped.
The California-based car manufacturer has been forced to stop working on the former General Motors plant in Wilmington and cut 26 jobs after the U.S. Energy Department blocked access to a federal loan due to the company not reaching sales milestones.
The Energy Department awarded Fisker $529 million in loans back in April of 2010 from its $25-billion program to back loans for renewable energy project. So far, $193 million has already been spent. Delaware has offered to pony up $21.5 million through the Delaware Economic Development Office’s Strategic Fund. Of that, $17.9 million has already been spent, and it could all be for naught if Fisker can’t sell any more of its Justin Bieber mobiles.
The prospects aren’t looking so hot, according to Jeremy Anwyl, vice chairman of Edumnds.com.
“The car may be an interesting toy for people who have $100,000 to spend on such a thing,” Anwyl told Bloomberg News, “but Fisker will run out of those people quickly, and how tolerant of glitches will those people be?”
Now, I’m not against investments in green energy, and I’m not a complete dolt to realize that for every misstep in funding to a Solyndra, we have success stories like SunPower and Brightsource Energy. I also think it’s important for the government to support emerging technologies that could allow us to become more energy independent, foster entrepreneurship and innovation and create jobs here in the U.S.
But bet smartly. At $102,000, Fisker’s Karma plug-in electric sports car really only appeals to the Jusin Biebers of the world. Fisker has produced 1,500 Karmas, but only about 300 have ended up in people’s driveways. Even Project Nina, Fisker’s affordable, mass-market family car that’s intended to be built in Delaware, costs north of $50,000 (company officials say it could get down to $40,000, depending on tax rebates). How is that affordable, when many cars currently on the market offer similar miles per gallon yet cost dramatically less?
The fact is green luxury vehicles just don’t sell well, especially when the market’s interest is in saving money due to rising gas prices. Just look at the sales figures for the BMW 7-Series ActiveHybrid for 2011. Brutal.
It seemed like a pipe dream to me then, and even more so now. I hope they are able to rebound. But it’s not looking promising.
Too bad the cash for clunkers program isn’t around any longer. Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on Twitter @RobTornoe.