By Andrew Ganz
Monday, Feb 18th, 2013 @ 8:23 am
 
Struggling California-based startup Fisker could soon be owned by the same holding group that acquired Volvo from Ford in 2010.
Unnamed sources close to Fisker told Reuters that Zhejiang Geely Holding Group - known colloquially as Geely - is the front-runner among two Chinese bidders for Fisker.

According to the report, Fisker has received offers from Geely and Dongfeng, the latter of which is said to have offered to acquire an 85 percent stake in the troubled builder of premium plug-in extended range electric cars. The two offers are believed to be worth between $200 and $300 million, but Geely is reported to be "more serious" and "passionate" about Fisker's design-oriented premium cars and its range-extending technology.

In addition, the lean - by Chinese standards - Geely is also known for making fast decisions, something Reuters points out is rarely the case in multi-layered, state-controlled Chinese corporations. In Geely's case, founder Li Shufu wields much of the automaker's power.

"Overall, we think Geely is a better fit," one of the sources said.

Fisker has been selling its high-end Karma plug-in extended-range EV for over a year, but its future hinges on its ability to build and sell a less expensive, higher volume model tentatively called Atlantic. That BMW 5-Series rival is intended to sell for about $55,000, but it has been delayed.

Despite its endorsement by Hollywood celebrities and its high-style designs, Fisker came under fire - literally and figuratively - last year when it faced a problem with its vehicles catching fire, production delays when its battery supplier was sold to a Chinese firm and a PR debacle when politicians openly attacked it during the election season in the United States. Fisker received a Department of Energy loan to build and develop EVs in the U.S.

Geely, meanwhile, acquired Volvo from Ford in 2010. The first major automaker to fall under Chinese control, Volvo hasn't changed much outwardly since its new owner took over. Geely hasn't moved forward as quickly with a Chinese production facility - which would supply the Chinese market only - as many have expected, but it has invested heavily in future Volvo product development in Sweden.

It's unclear what Geely would look to do with Fisker, but access to the automaker's sophisticated EV systems could benefit higher-volume future Volvo vehicles.