How the once-promising EV maker went bottom-up

on Jun18
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Henrik Fisker stands with the Fisker Ocean electric vehicle after its unveiling at the Manhattan Beach Pier ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show and AutoMobilityLA in Manhattan Beach, California. on Nov. 16, 2021.

Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

Fisker on Monday became the latest all-electric vehicle startup to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid lackluster consumer demand, significant cash burn and operational and product issues.

For investors, the writing’s been on the wall for some time as Fisker issued a going concern about its ability to continue as a company in February, leading its charismatic founder and CEO Henrik Fisker to disappear from social media and the limelight.

It’s the latest in a series of EV companies to collapse. Other companies backed by special purpose acquisition companies, or SPAC, have also filed for bankruptcy protection. That list includes companies such as Proterra, Lordstown Motors and Electric Last Mile Solutions. Others such as Nikola and Faraday Future remain in business but trade for under $1 per share amid operational challenges, missed targets and broader industry headwinds.

It’s also a bit of déjà vu, as it marks Henrik Fisker’s second car company, both branded under his last name, to file for bankruptcy protection.

The new filing comes after the Fisker company failed to secure an investment from a big automaker to keep afloat. Nearly four years ago, Fisker announced plans to go public through a reverse merger with an Apollo-backed SPAC that valued the company at $2.9 billion. The deal infused Fisker with more than $1 billion in cash.

Fisker, like many other companies at the time, was fueled by low interest rates and a bullishness on Wall Street around EVs following the rise of U.S. electric vehicle leader Tesla.

“They looked at Tesla’s success, and Tesla was more of an anomaly than an example,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal research analyst at Guidehouse Insights.

Can Fisker survive?

But consumer adoption for EVs has grown slower than expected, costs have risen and investor interest in EVs other than Tesla has dried up. The company also faced significant issues with its operations as well as the launch of its first product, called the Ocean SUV EV.

Software focus

Fisker's 'going concern' warning

The company burned through cash and last month recalled thousands of Ocean SUVs in North America and Europe due to issues with vehicle software.

According to the company’s Chapter 11 filing, it owes millions to software and engineering companies, such as Adobe, SAP America, Manpower Group and Prelude Systems, among others. CNBC parent company NBCUniversal is also listed as a top creditor.

“[The auto industry is] capital intensive. You’re trying to match production, consumer demand and when they have any kind of issue with the vehicle, money has to be allocated to that,” said Stephanie Valdez Streaty, Cox Automotive Director of Industry Insights. “Also when they don’t have other revenues like [internal combustion engines] to fund it … it makes it very challenging.”

Its operating unit, Fisker Group Inc., estimated assets of $500 million to $1 billion and liabilities of $100 million to $500 million.

At the end of last year, Fisker had $530 million in inventory, as it only sold 4,700 of the more than 10,000 Ocean EVs it had produced in 2023.

Déjà vu

Fisker CEO Henrik Fisker discusses the production debut of the electric Ocean SUV

Both companies also changed direction and priorities many times.

After delivering less than half of the more than 10,000 vehicles it produced through a direct-to-consumer approach that resembled Tesla’s model, the second Fisker turned to a dealership-based distribution model in January.

But there was one key difference this time. With the failure of the second Fisker, its investors were left out to dry instead of American taxpayers. While Henrik Fisker’s first company was boosted by a $529 million federal loan — $139 million of which the government lost — the second was funded through Wall Street’s bullishness on SPACs and EVs. Its stock was delisted in April.

A Fisker spokesperson said in a statement early Tuesday that the company is “proud of our achievements” but determined that Chapter 11 was the best option.

“Like other companies in the electric vehicle industry, we have faced various market and macroeconomic headwinds that have impacted our ability to operate efficiently,” the spokesperson said in a release. “After evaluating all options for our business, we determined that proceeding with a sale of our assets under Chapter 11 is the most viable path forward for the company.”

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