Bob Lutz May Become Fisker Automotive’s Godfather

Bob LutzBob Lutz will be remembered for a lot of things in the auto industry, and one them might be as the Godfather of Plug-in Hybrids.

The former vice chairman of General Motors is credited with the concept that turned into the Chevy Volt. He also helped startup Via Motors, a maker of converted plug-in hybrid work trucks. Now he’s going after Fisker Automotive as it barely stays alive.

Another company that he leads, boutique automaker VL Automotive, has cut a deal with major Chinese auto parts supplier (and chief investor in what used to be called A123 Systems) Wanxiang Group to buy Fisker for $20 million. That may sound like chump change for acquiring an automaker, but Fisker might need to take that offer.

While he took the Dept. of Energy to task for funding Fisker, and Fisker executives for not playing by the rules of the game in vehicle manufacturing, Lutz did admit in his Forbes column that the Karma is “quite possibly the most beautiful four-door sedan ever.” And he thinks its powertrain technology is “ground-breaking.”

Back in January at the Detroit Auto Show, Lutz and VL Automotive showed off a Karma adapted with just a gasoline engine, called the Destino. He loves the design, but thinks it’s not a pragmatic model to run as an extended range plug-in. Lutz thought it worked better running on a 638-horsepower supercharged V8.

Details on the $20 million investment aren’t very clear yet, but it appears that Lutz will want to have Fisker continue making plug-in hybrids and not converting over to gas-engine Destinos. Fisker owed the Dept. of Energy $171 million, and it’s likely that won’t be paid back. Fisker has laid off a lot of its staff and has been in talks with potential investors to sell its assets. Bankruptcy is likely to happen, but this VL Automotive/Wanxiang acquisition could stop that from happening.

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