Fisker Fire Sale

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

It's been almost three weeks since word upscale and independent electric vehicle automaker Fisker announced it was going into bankruptcy. Talks with Nissan about an investment collapsed, which put a further financial crimp on the company, as its other, "secret" investor - whose money was contingent on the Nissan deal going through - left them high and dry as well. There were no other sources of funding left, and the company had bills coming due fast.

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The EV retail market just lost another one -  of its marquee, OG play-yahs: Fisker.

Fisker filed for bankruptcy protection late on Monday, as the U.S. electric-vehicle maker looks to salvage its operations by selling assets and restructuring its debt after burning through cash in an attempt to ramp up production of its Ocean SUVs.

The hyper-competitive EV market has seen several companies, including Proterra, Lordstown and Electric Last Mile Solutions, file for bankruptcy in the past two years as they grappled with weakening demand, fundraising hurdles and operational challenges from global supply chain issues.

As I wrote in my story - and a Reuters tweet I used reinforced - Fisker wanted to quickly unload as many of its $500M-$1B in assets as possible to begin to meet as many of its $100-$500M liabilities as it could.

Part of the reason they were in such a pickle to begin with and had burned through so much of their cash reserves so quickly was the troubled roll-out of their Ocean all-electric SUV. The vehicle was plagued with technical glitches and manufacturing defects, resulting in less-than-stellar word-of-mouth reviews. 

All of which helped set back delivery dates and caused an avalanche of canceled orders.

Tens of thousands of Fisker customers have canceled their vehicle reservations, according to leaked data obtained by Business Insider, as the electric car company scrambles to find additional financing and a potential bankruptcy filing looms over its operations.

More than 40,000 out of well over 70,000 reservations for the Fisker Ocean have been canceled to date, according to internal company metrics viewed by Business Insider. The company first began accepting pre-orders in November 2019, and announced in February 2023 that it had "approximately 65,000" reservations ahead of its first deliveries.

Fisker was averaging around 70 to 80 cancellations per day in a recent seven-day average, according to the internal metrics viewed by BI.

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Welp. Down Fisker went anyway.

In one of those sorts of wild coincidences that happen at the worst possible moment, Fisker had, thirteen days before filing for bankruptcy, finally managed to deliver one of those cantankerous Oceans to Motor Trend for their year-long test drive series.

After an initial reaction of, "Well, thanks, but WTF are we supposed to do with this thing now?" Motor Trend opted to continue to roll.

...Hanging above all other questions, though, is what happens now that the company is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Will services be interrupted? Will features stop working? Will we be able to get it serviced if we need to, and what will that process look like? We don’t know the answers to any of these questions. We’ve never had a company fall into bankruptcy during a long-term evaluation, but we’ll share whatever happens with you.

The model the magazine has is the second highest level that Fisker offered - a 2023 Ocean Extreme. You can see by all the bells and whistles describing the Ocean itself how much could go wrong with it if the engineering and manufacturing process wasn't first-rate to begin with.

...The Extreme comes with tons of bells and whistles, including heated seats all around, the solar-panel sunroof that trickle-charges the battery, all-wheel drive, a boost mode that temporarily ups the maximum motor power, the rotating infotainment screen that lets you watch videos when the car is parked, the premium stereo, a rear screen with climate controls, a power tailgate, and EPA-estimated 360 miles of range, and of course, California mode, which drops every window but the windshield (even the little ones near the back on the sides) and opens the sunroof simultaneously.

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The magazine, besides the obvious "who honors the warranty on this thing now" questions, noted that they'd gotten their base price as tested Ocean for half of what the retail list price had been.

BASE/AS TESTED PRICE*

$63,937/$69,061 ($37,499 current pricing after factory discounts)

"Factory discounts" were aggressive right at the end, which had to really hurt the poor folks who'd paid full freight for theirs.

It's also why Fisker's move this week to dump assets has an owners coalition and unsecured creditors asking a federal bankruptcy judge to put the brakes on Fisker's Ocean fire sale. They are giving them away.

The company's plans include offloading their remaining stock of Oceans for about $14,000 each to the owner of a company that rents to Uber and Lyft fleets in New York City.

Fisker has a willing buyer for its remaining inventory of all-electric Ocean SUVs, and has asked the Delaware Bankruptcy Court judge overseeing its Chapter 11 case to approve the sale.

If approved by the judge, Fisker would be able to offload 3,231 finished EVs to a New York-based vehicle leasing company for $46.25 million. That works out to around $14,000 per vehicle — a steep fall from the roughly $70,000 starting price some of them once commanded. It’s also lower than the bargain-bin prices Fisker was offering during its descent into bankruptcy.

The motion requesting approval of the sale could become the next flashpoint in Fisker’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. Lawyers representing the company’s unsecured lenders already expressed concern in the first hearing, held on June 21, that they would not see the proceeds of such sales. Fisker owes around $1 billion in total to all of its unsecured creditors.

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"Hang on a second there!" said everyone from current Fisker owners to the representative from the U.S. Trustee's Office and every unsecured creditor in-between.

In a high-stakes court hearing presided over by Judge Horan, the electric vehicle (EV) maker Fisker, Inc. was challenged regarding their accelerated sale motion. The hearing was conducted via Zoom on Wednesday, July 3, and EV had access to the audio file.

...Daniel Schama, representing over 2,000 members of the Fisker Owners Association, expressed apprehension regarding the potential impacts of the sale on existing vehicle owners.

Concerns included the continuity of software updates and other vehicle support services post-sale. Schama remarked, “We have concerns around the sale and the impact it’ll have on existing vehicle owners, with software updates, a litany of issues that pose transactions.”

Present Fisker owners had better hang on to the vehicles and hope they appreciate over time as antique curiosities because their investment's gone from Bergdorf's to Bargain Basement overnight. It's as well that the owners are speaking up now to try to build in protection for their own not-insignificant investments because the fellow trying to buy the remaining Fiskers is probably a harbinger of things to come. And, frankly, what one would expect as a result of bankruptcy.

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...Once a sale is complete, Fisker will have “no obligation of repair or maintenance of the Vehicles, and Vehicles will be sold ‘as is’ with no express or implied warranties,” according to the agreement. Fisker also will have “no obligation to update the” vehicles beyond the 2.1 version of its software. Fisker will also give American lease license to access “all relevant source code or other proprietary software operating elements.”

If there's no longer a company, who do you complain to about warranties and parts shortages? That's what happens.

In the Marine Corps, we'd call these "cann birds" for "cannibalization" or parts bodies. This might be a prudent move if a Fisker owner has an extra $2500 or so to spend and a spot in their back 40 or a rental storage space.

...Finally, a few damaged examples of the Fisker Ocean will be sold for as low as $2,500. However, to fall into this category, an EV must have ‘mechanical, cosmetic, or other damage or defects that require repair,’ with repair costs ‘reasonably estimated in excess of $5,000.’

...“Still, the damaged examples could serve as a valuable source of parts for the leasing fleet, keeping them on the road longer. Furthermore, Fisker will provide American Lease with ‘all relevant source code’ and ‘existing developer work’ for the software, enabling the firm to perform necessary updates itself. Another part of the document mentions that American Lease shall reimburse Fisker for the costs associated with the Software v2.1 update.

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For a company that wanted the Ocean to compete with Tesla's Model Y, this is a sad ending. But for a company that seemed to be run on a wing, a prayer, personality, and promises instead of attention to detail, engineering acumen, and solid business practices, this was inevitable.

The EV market, such as it is, is sorting itself out.

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David Strom 2:40 PM | July 24, 2024
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