WASHINGTON — Fisker Automotive, a California startup manufacturer of luxury electric vehicles, plans to announce shortly the location of a U.S. manufacturing facility where it will build plug-in electric vehicles, its top executive said Tuesday.
Henrik Fisker, the company's co-founder and chief executive, declined to elaborate on the site of the retooled plant but said in an interview that the company considered several existing factories. He appeared to rule out the Fremont-based New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., or NUMMI, where Toyota plans to halt production in March 2010.
NUMMI "is obviously way too big for us when you're talking about 100,000 to 150,000 cars. So there are some plants out there that are simply too big," Fisker said.
"We found one that was very modern and has produced cars until recently and all that, so there is definitely a good choice of factories and all the Big Three are selling factories at this point in time," Fisker said. "We're probably somewhat lucky ... that there are so many empty factories available."
Fisker, who spoke at an entrepreneurs conference, said the Irvine company hopes to achieve 3 percent of the U.S. luxury market by 2011. The automaker recently received approval for a $528.7 million government loan to develop plug-ins and the company is expected to release its first vehicle, the Karma, in summer 2010.
The Karma, which will be built in Finland by Valmet Automotive, will start at $87,900 and has presold about 1,500 vehicles. Fisker said during his presentation that 15 percent of the early buyers previously owned Mercedes-Benz and 13 percent were BMW owners. The automaker's suppliers include Visteon, TRW Automotive Holdings, Magna International and EnerDel.
The next-generation plug-in, called Project Nina, will sell for nearly $48,000 before a federal tax credit of $7,500 for plug-in hybrid vehicles and will be built at the U.S. facility with an annual production of about 100,000 vehicles. Project Nina is expected to reach showrooms by 2012 and Fisker said a lower-cost, high-volume plug-in could follow.
"If you stay a startup, if you stay a niche, you will have problems. It is clear that we do not want to stay a niche carmaker," Fisker said. "We believe we have a window of about three to four years to get to the point where we have that economy of scale so we can compete with anyone in the world."