Liquidation Corp., an entity established to liquidate the assets of the former General Motors Corp., will sell the auto maker’s shuttered roadster assembly plant in Wilmington, DE, to electric sports car maker Automotive Inc.
An informed source tells Ward’s the transaction will be announced in an event at the plant on Tuesday. Media reports out of Wilmington confirm the event.
Vice President Joe Biden, a Wilmington resident, is expected to be among the attending dignitaries, Ward’s learns.
Biden’s presence would make sense, consideringreceived $359 million from the Department of Energy as part of an Obama Admin. initiative to promote electric-vehicle development. Irvine, CA-based Fisker was one of the first recipients of the DOE loans.
Fisker currently plans to outsource final assembly of the Karma luxury hybrid-electric vehicle – the auto maker’s first U.S. offering due later this year – from Valmet Automotive Inc. in Finland. Founder and CEO Henrik Fisker has expressed a desire to build or renovate a plant in the U.S. to assemble his luxury vehicles.
Spokesmen for Fisker and Alix Partners, the Michigan-based restructuring consultant handling liquidation of GM’s old assets, did not immediately return calls.
The Wilmington facility, known locally as the Boxwood Road plant, went dark on July 31 as part ofCo.’s efforts to shrink its manufacturing footprint. It employed 1,047 people – 958 hourly and 89 salaried – shortly before closing.
Covering 3.2 million sq.-ft. (297,280 sq.-m), Wilmington assembly was last retooled in 2005 for the low-volume Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky roadsters. It also built the Opel GT for export.
If restarted by Fisker, the site could build vehicles for export as well as the domestic market.
Speaking at conference on plug-in vehicles in Detroit earlier this week, Fisker says the DOE’s market research indicates there will be greater worldwide demand for electric vehicles than previously thought.
Fisker’s ultimate goal is to export 50% of the company’s production, which he expects to eventually number “several hundred thousand,” following launch of lower-cost models.
“So the cars have to be designed to appeal to buyers in Europe and Asia,” he says. “Every year the consumer is getting more comfortable with electrification.”
More near-term, Fisker forecasts 7,500 sales next year and sees that doubling to 15,000 units by 2011, when the Karma convertible arrives.
In 2009, its peak year of roadster production, the plant built 42,893 units.
It is unclear, however, exactly which Fisker model might go into Wilmington. Fisker has said he also wants to build a “lower-cost” car in a couple of years. The first Karma will sticker for $87,900.
Officials with United Auto Workers union Local 435, which represents workers at the Wilmington plant, could not be reached. UAW Region 8 leaders were traveling and unable to return calls.
But the former GM’s bankruptcy eliminated any chance of successor rights. So the union would have to organize the plant anew.
The new GM will wind down the Pontiac and Saturn brands this year, as it shrinks from eight divisions to four – Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. The auto maker will trim U.S. powertrain, stamping and assembly operations to 31 sites by 2012 from 47 in 2008.
– with David E. Zoia