Tag Archives: electric cars

China’s Green Carmakers Look To Buy America’s Fisker

Chinese industry’s pursuit of all things green and technological looks set to continue with an investment in the cash-strapped U.S. hybrid electric carmaker Fisker. Dongfeng Motor, Geely Auto and Beijing Auto have all reportedly been in conversations with the California-based company that is looking to raise $200 million-300 million to develop its new sedan, the Atlantic, on which its future rides.

The car company has also been talking to Wanxiang, the car parts group that had recently bought Fisker’s main battery supplier, A123 Systems. We understand that there is also a European car maker in the mix. Discussions are expected to be concluded this quarter. A key point is whether majority control would pass to one partner–Dongfeng is reportedly seeking an 85% stake–or whether to have multiple minority partners.

We recall that another U.S. electric carmaker, Tesla, partnered with Toyota and Daimler before becoming a public company in 2010. Fisker looks to be traveling the same road, which would make it a doubly attractive destination to a Chinese partner.

However, a Chinese investment could be controversial in the U.S. Fisker got a $529 million line of credit from the U.S. energy department in 2009, though this was frozen last year with $200 million outstanding. The Obama administration’s support for green technology companies has become a touchstone for the president’s opponents of industrial policy following the collapse of Solyndra, a solar cells maker prominently backed by the administration before going bankrupt.

Americans’ attitudes to Chinese investment in the U.S. are changing, as the U.S.’s approval of CNOOC’s acquisition of Canada’s Nexen, and Wanxiang’s takeover over bankrupt A123 show. But scratch the surface and raw nerves are still to be found. To mitigate the political opposition, any deal with a Chinese company would probably have to ensure that production of the Atlanta would move from Finland to Delaware, as planned, and not move directly to China.

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Buffett’s Ups and Downs With BYD

As a snapshot of global financial markets’ ups and downs, look no further than U.S. billionaire investor, Warren Buffett. In 2008, he paid $231 million for a 10% stake in BYD Co., China’s largest maker of rechargeable batteries and whose chairman, Wang Chuanfu, nurtured a dream of making electric cars. BYD’s F3 sedan was China’s best-selling marque in 2009 and 2010, but its hybrid F3DM and e6 electric model have not met with similar success and the company has had to delay the U.S. launch of the e6 until 2012. The company’s share price fell by 14% on Tuesday in the wake of a third-quarter profits warning. The value of Buffett’s stake is now down by $2 billion from its peak in October 2009, though still double what he paid for it.

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BYD Unveils China’s First Electric Hybrid

BYD, the battery maker turned electric car maker and in which U.S. investor Warren Buffett took a 10% sake earlier this year, has unveiled China’s first homegrown plug-in hybrid vehicle.

That is few weeks later than BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu had said in October but a year earlier than originally expected and more importantly ahead of the next-gen Toyota hybrid and two years ahead of GM’s Chevy Volt.

Plans for sales to foreign markets, including the U.S. remain set for 2011, which will let it ride on the marketing coat tails of foreign competitors and probably position itself as the cheaper alternative.

The vehicle, which has a small gasoline engine as a back up to its electric engine, is selling for 149,800 yuan ($21,890). That cheaper than Toyota’s top selling hybrid, the Prius, at 259,000 yuan, but twice the cost of BYD’s comparable gas-engine only car, the F3.

The company is focusing first on domestic taxi and fleet sales rather than individuals, with a target of 10,000 sales in 2009. The first announced sales of the F3DM are a total of 50 cars to the Shenzhen municipal government and China Construction Bank.

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