March 4, 2009 / 8:49 PM / 9 years ago

Fisker could move quickly on low-cost car

GENEVA (Reuters) - Fisker Automotive Inc, a builder of luxury plug-in hybrids, could develop a lower-cost high volume small car quickly if it receives Department of Energy loans, its founder said on Wednesday.

The private automaker would use the Energy Department loans for developing the lower cost plug-in hybrid and probably to refurbish a factory in the United States, founder and Chief Executive Henrik Fisker told Reuters in an interview.

“If we get that, it could be in the market extremely quickly,” Fisker said at the Geneva Motor Show.

Fisker did not say how much money the company had sought from the Department of Energy. Large automakers such as Ford Motor Co (F.N) have sought billions of dollars in loans to support conversion toward new technology.

“If we get the DoE loan we will start the project this year,” he said. “It could be in the market in as little as 26 months from when we start.”

Fisker is preparing now for the production launch of its first vehicle, a four-door luxury sedan called the Karma that has a starting price of $87,900. The vehicle will be built in Finland by Valmet Automotive.

The automaker expects Karma production to begin in October and the first vehicles to be delivered to the United States by the end of the year and in Europe in early 2010.

Fisker plans a more family-oriented version of the sedan before building the lower-cost small car, he said.

    Valmet and Fisker would work together on refurbishing a U.S. plant for production on a next generation vehicle, he said. He did not say where the plant might be located.

    “We have some ideas, but it is too early to announce that at this point in time,” Fisker said.

    Valmet, a car manufacturing unit of Finnish engineering group Metso Oyj MEO1V.HE, also builds Boxster and Cayman models for Porsche (PSHG_p.DE).

    Fisker said he was confident of demand for the sedan even as the world automotive downturn has broadened to a luxury car market previously considered recession-proof.

    “It would be impossible to launch a new car brand right now if it was just another car,” Fisker said. “We are launching a car that really defines where the future is going and not only in terms of technology.”

    Reporting by David Bailey, editing by Matthew Lewis

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