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$529M Gov't Loan To Develop $89,000 Hybrid Sports Car 293

Posted by Soulskill
from the please-tell-me-it-has-lasers dept.
theodp writes "The WSJ reports that a tiny car company backed by former VP Al Gore has just gotten a $529M US government loan to help build an $89,000 hybrid sports car in Finland. The award this week to California startup Fisker Automotive follows an earlier $465M government loan to Tesla Motors, purveyors of a $109,000 British-built electric Roadster. Fisker's other investors (PDF) include the Al Gharaffa Investment Co., a Cayman Islands corporation."
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$529M Gov't Loan To Develop $89,000 Hybrid Sports Car

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  • Hybrid car (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Saturday September 26, 2009 @10:16AM (#29548175) Journal

    The article makes it sound like it would only be a car for the "elite", but I think the hybrid/electric car development also plays a big role in it. Considering how shitty hybrid car development is by far, its only good. And maybe now US can stop relying so much on oil too.

    • Re:Hybrid car (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shoten (260439) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @10:26AM (#29548239)

      I agree; look at any commodity...in this case, let's say the home computer...and then look backwards in history. Early on, the progeny of such items were expensive, and there's a reason for that. It takes a hell of a lot of money to solve the early challenges, and only after they get solved do issues of producing something more cheaply get worked out. In addition to that, if you look at normal automotive development, you'll see that a lot of the R&D actually takes place in the F1 circuit. Talk about expensive, but it's what gave us a lot of the features we now have for ordinary cars, like ABS. But even then, it was only the most expensive cars that got those features first, before it became cheaper and cheaper. At this point, every Chevrolet made has ABS, and it's been like that for years.

      • Re:Hybrid car (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Dan667 (564390) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @11:31AM (#29548599)
        ABS was developed first for airplanes.
      • I agree; look at any commodity...in this case, let's say the home computer...and then look backwards in histor

        Actually, that's completely wrong and computers are the best example of it. When you say that something is cheaper, you have to do the multiply and consider the quantity, to get the real cost. Look at how many players with some capital could get into the hardware business previously. There used to be scores of CPUs out there, and now there's but a handful. Similarly look at how many operating sys

      • In addition to that, if you look at normal automotive development, you'll see that a lot of the R&D actually takes place in the F1 circuit. Talk about expensive

        One of Henry Ford's first discoveries was that the mass market product generates a lot of cash for R&D.

        Henry put 20 million cars on the road.

        The Stanleys, 11,000.

        The Duesenbergs less than 1,000.

        In 1930 a Duesenberg chassis would have set you back $8500. The finished price with coachwork around $15 to $20,000.

        Ford was in the business of basi

      • no, no. totally wrong. computers were expensive because they were big and manufacture was less automated than nowadays. nowadays i'd wager just as high a proportion or even higher goes into r&d at hardware manufacturers.

        also i doubt many important advances in car technology come because of F1. there's no reason why they should do. you could probably argue that F1 gives the r&d department of car manufacturers a hobby, but you'd be pushing it to say that any advance came specifically because of F
      • by catchblue22 (1004569) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:40PM (#29549251) Homepage

        To quote the definition of demagogue (Oxford English Dictionary):

        a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.

        Note first the prominent placement of "Al Gore" in the article. Immediately the prejudices against Gore are brought out in the reader, as much work has been done to demonize him. Then the "luxury car" moniker, implying that this isn't for the good of the "common people", but only for rich elites. Finally comes the "rights of the taxpayer" meme, where firmly instilled prejudices against government taxation and spending are brought out.

        Nowhere in the article is any real perspective given about the development cycle of high tech products, and about how new tech often first appears in luxury goods before percolating down to the mass market. Nowhere is it mentioned that government has often helped nurture other high tech companies in the past (Boeing for example via military spending). The article is much like the bell for Pavlov's dog, where certain words such as "Gore" and "taxation" elicit a conditioned response in indoctrinated readers. The Wall Street Journal has become the Pravda of the right.

  • Typical (Score:4, Insightful)

    by token_username (1415329) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @10:25AM (#29548231)
    I'd say this is a typical example of an elite environmentalist. I pity the people who don't see they are merely using people and care only minimally for the environmment.
    • Re:Typical (Score:4, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @10:47AM (#29548351)

      In the way that gamer early-adopters help fund computer components the rest of us later buy for dirt cheap, early-adopter rich folk can fund tech that will trickle down. Toys don't have to be built on the scale (and at the massive risk level) of mass market products.

      We are in the infancy of alternative vehicle tech. Lots of companies won't survive (no problem) but we need them to pursue development that large automakers will not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lapsed (1610061)
      I think it's the other way around. People make largely symbolic choices -- driving a marginally more fuel efficient car that costs five times more to build, for example -- rather than making real sacrifices for the environment. Go to a typical supermarket this morning and look at the choices people make. People buy produce flown in from Argentina, beef raised using unsustainable practices and products whose packaging is unnecessarily elaborate. The number of people living in suburbs (accessible only by car
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by spearway (169040)

        And why is the sacrifice good? Except for some extreme religious folks, most people would rather enjoy life. Presenting environment consciousness as a sacrifice may be a good way to start the environment religion but I would be surprised if this message ever gain mainstream acceptance. Finding sustainable solution that enables us to maintain our way of life is probably a better message.From everything I have read there maintaining a good and easy life while keeping the planet cool are not incompatible goals

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      Hey, they need to make cars that have a competitive market. If you have 100k USD to spend on your next car, what would you buy? You need to think of that kind of people to pay for the development of future technology. Government is betting on the fact that a sports car could generate market and of course revenue to keep going.

      How many people have bought very expensive computers and cellphones, so others will get them later for around or less than $100 USD?

      Sincerely, maybe they can even get some advise f
    • I'd say this is a typical example of an elite environmentalist. I pity the people who don't see they are merely using people and care only minimally for the environmment.

      This is such a crock of shit. Try reading the actual article.

      Matt Rogers, who oversees the department's loan programs as a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, said Fisker was awarded the loan after a "detailed technical review" that concluded the company could eventually deliver a highly fuel-efficient hybrid car to a mass audien

  • US technology (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nickovs (115935) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @10:33AM (#29548273)

    Much is being made of the US Govt is funding these cars that are to be built outside the US, but the fact is that the technology is going to be owned by a US company. Fisker is essentially outsourcing every aspect of their development but the resulting technology, and the profits, will accrue to the US business and be taxed in the US. It seems perfectly reasonable for the US govt to underwrite creation of valuable technology that will benefit the US in the long term. People need to get over the fact that the US is now a post-industrial nation who's future lies in innovation rather than manufacturing.

    • Re:US technology (Score:4, Insightful)

      by russotto (537200) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @10:42AM (#29548323) Journal

      People need to get over the fact that the US is now a post-industrial nation who's future lies in innovation rather than manufacturing.

      Now try to square that statement with the state of the US primary and secondary educational systems...

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by couchslug (175151)

        "Now try to square that statement with the state of the US primary and secondary educational systems..."

        The US is large, and the elite and uniquely gifted will continue to innovate.

        The herd (often given more respect than it deserves, which is...none) will remain as it wants to be, ignorant, superstitious, and vile. The herd resents education, so instead of angering the beasts we should seek an "educated counterculture" that can become powerful. Let the beasts have their reality shows and their Bible, their

        • Re:US technology (Score:5, Insightful)

          by c6gunner (950153) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @11:22AM (#29548559)

          Man, you would make an AWESOME dictator! You're like the bastard love-child of Caesar and Stalin. Please, please, PLEASE get involved in politics!

        • by Shark (78448)

          Wow, Al Gore himself couldn't have said it any better.... Wait, is that you?

        • I get the impression that while falmebaity you have hit upon 2 truths:
          1) As broken as the US education system is (or is not, tbh i don't know), there is a strong anti-education counter culture in the US
          2) you can never force people to learn.

        • by tftp (111690)

          The US is large, and the elite and uniquely gifted will continue to innovate.

          Let's assume you are right. The elite will not innovate, or even live here, if the percentage of barbarians rises to some level. Lack of education or skills results in proliferation of ghettos. Do you think the 10% of smart people can live in the same country with 90% of criminals and social parasites? Where will the money come from to feed those 90%? From taxing the 10%, of course, and these taxes will be confiscatory. The next

    • Re:US technology (Score:4, Informative)

      by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @10:48AM (#29548355)

      Much is being made of the US Govt is funding these cars that are to be built outside the US, but the fact is that the technology is going to be owned by a US company. Fisker is essentially outsourcing every aspect of their development but the resulting technology, and the profits, will accrue to the US business and be taxed in the US.

      Unless the big profits just happen to be made by an offshore sub-contractor which just happens to be owned by the people behind Fisker ;-)
      Seriously, giving money to multinational corporations is just asking for that kind of scam. And when it happens, it will probably use a loophole in the laws so these guys do not even risk jail time.

      Besides, hybrid technology is not that new anymore. I have my doubts if it should be reason enough for governments to fund a new car maker. A better use of tax money would be battery research that is released under Open Access, with the patents going to the public domain.

      • A better use of tax money would be battery research that is released under Open Access, with the patents going to the public domain.

        A better use of tax money would be for the government to give it back to the people they took it from in the first place. Why should I be forced to "invest" (if you can even call it that given the track record of government spending) my hard-earned money in battery research through taxes? Has anyone else ever noticed that very often these sorts of "investments" are the very same ones that the private sector won't touch with a ten foot pole? If these "investments" are so worthwhile and good then why must the

        • A better use of tax money would be for the government to give it back to the people they took it from in the first place. Why should I be forced to "invest" (if you can even call it that given the track record of government spending) my hard-earned money in battery research through taxes? Has anyone else ever noticed that very often these sorts of "investments" are the very same ones that the private sector won't touch with a ten foot pole?

          The private sector tends to ignore anything that won't yield a short term profit. It certainly ignores anything where the benefits are for the public instead of making the company rich. So now and then, it takes some tax money to get things underway that would happen too little too late otherwise.

          Take renewable energy for instance. I happen to agree with the people who claim that global Peak Oil cannot be far off anymore. So we need something else, and we better have a lot of it when the next oil crisis arr

    • by Vellmont (569020)


      Fisker is essentially outsourcing every aspect of their development but the resulting technology, and the profits, will accrue to the US business and be taxed in the US.

      Right. So the economic benefits will only go to a select few who (if successful) become super-rich. The lions share of the economic benefits will go outside the United States, as profit margins for the auto industry are typically in the single digits [theonlineinvestor.com].

      SO the best case scenario is that a few people in the US get super-rich and we get to tax

    • by jimicus (737525)

      Fisker is essentially outsourcing every aspect of their development..... People need to get over the fact that the US is now a post-industrial nation who's future lies in innovation rather than manufacturing.

      Are you aware that the UK went through the exact same thing in the 1980's when a lot of car companies moved some or all of their manufacturing offshore?

      Today there isn't a single UK-owned car manufacturer left to innovate (outside of a few very exclusive companies that probably produce about a hundred cars per year between them).

  • I'm pretty sure they've already financed the Tesla Roadster since it's in production now and IIRC, that loan was to get an EV sedan out and under $50,000. From what I can tell from the /. posting, this looks like a whine more than anything else. I mean really, an investor had a tax shelter corporation? oooooowwwww

    FYI, Microsoft uses NV to save it hundreds of millions in taxes by saying they product the products there when all they do is burn the CDs there.

    Probably some Right Wing cry baby or the oil indust
    • by Shark (78448)

      Probably some Right Wing cry baby or the oil industry behind the article so read it with a grain of salt.

      It's pretty foolish to think the oil industry feels in any way threatened by anything 'green'. *Especially* the elitist do as I say not as I do Al-Gore kind of green. Even if cars used no fuel at all, they'd still make money off of the tires, the roads, the machinery building the road, the ships transporting the cars, the plastics to make the car, the trucks transporting parts and tools for the cars. And for every hostile environment oil rig they don't have to finance, they lower their cost of production

  • by jav1231 (539129) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @11:06AM (#29548453)
    This simply proves there's money to be made in green. It isn't earned money like the way real businesses operate. It's confiscatory profit from you and me. This is why the global warming debate is so damn tainted. People want to make it out like you're a freak if your skeptical about causation or about what can really be done. I'm skeptical when people are getting "loans" like this from people like you and me under the guise of going green. It's going green, alright. Isn't envy and greed said to be "green?" I know American cash is "green!"
  • by Lemming Mark (849014) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @11:30AM (#29548589) Homepage

    I think the niche of electric sports cars, so far occupied by Tesla, has been an incredibly cunning strategy. Consider some strengths and weaknesses of an electric car:

    + Instant high acceleration; high torque available at any time, at any speed
    + Shiny and novel and impressive
    - Heavy and bulky batteries
    - Short range
    - Have to charge it a lot
    - Expensive

    And the requirements and constraints of a sports car:
    Need: Good speed and acceleration
    Need: Shiny and novel and impressive (i.e. expensive), so you can show off
    But: Drinks fuel faster, may have shorter range.
    But: You probably won't go very far in it, or very often.
    But: Often have lots of interior luxuries stripped out in the name of weight saving.

    Bingo! The requirements of a sports car are - to a reasonable extent - satisfied well by an electric motor. You get incredible acceleration, whenever you want. You get something impressive and futuristic-sounding and exotic. The constraints that lightweight sports cars have *already* do well to mask the disadvantages of an electric vehicle - with a sports car you probably expect reduced range, you don't want to use it all the time (so charging time not an issue, just keep it in the garage plugged in), you don't expect to carry groceries (bulk of the batteries doesn't matter), you don't expect lots of luxuries (so they can be stripped out to somewhat compensate for battery weight). And if you wanted a sports car you were already prepared to spend something expensive (and probably susceptible to image-based marketing - so the futuristic, green, responsible but exciting thing an electric sports car has will probably work on you!).

    As a bonus, sports cars are usually expensive in terms of fuel, whilst an electric car is going to be cheap. Probably even in the US, even more so in other markets.

    Genius. Goes to show that all those companies trying to make practical, electric town cars might have been starting from the wrong place!

  • WTF!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @11:51AM (#29548699)
    I am all for developement of greener alternatives! But why the fuck are we giving loans and grants to companies to build these cars outside the US? These loans were designed to stimulate the economy. The only thing we are doing is stimulating the UK and Finland while we have 10% fucking unemployment. Our current president is no better than Bush. This angers me to no end. We are still giving money away with No Strings Attached that we will never see again. More wealthcare! I, for one, am just puke sick and tired of it. Anyone else?
    • Also, who needs the 89,000 dollar sports car when most people need the 25-30,000 dollar practical everyday driver? Thought I would just put that one out there for y'all to consider.
      • by selven (1556643)
        Who needs the 89,000 dollar computer when most people need the 300-500 dollar pocket calculator? You need to actually try stuff to innovate, that's why.
      • Re:WTF!! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Kneo24 (688412) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:02PM (#29549067) Homepage
        Well, I don't know about you, but I did read the fucking article. This money is to produce the 40k variant, not the 89k variant. While I imagine some of that loan will go towards the more expensive model, most of it will go towards the cheaper model.
    • DERP. (Score:5, Informative)

      by iroll (717924) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @12:38PM (#29548961) Homepage

      Tesla got a loan to develop a sedan (from the ground up) that they will produce in the US.

      They currently sell a Lotus Elise-based sports car, because (as a start up) they couldn't afford to develop both the drivetrain AND the rest of the car. It was more efficient for them to source the body/frame from Lotus.

      Not only that, but the current generation sports car that Tesla's selling is intended to bring down the cost of the drivetrain package through production volume, while subsidizing development for the sedan.

      THE MORE YOU KNOOOW~

  • by Comatose51 (687974) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @11:57AM (#29548733) Homepage

    Wow, I don't recall the WSJ being this biased. Did this all happen after the Mrudoch purchase?

    Who cares if Fisker is backed by Gore? Why would that surprise anyone? Gore has money and is an environmentalist. Gore backing an electric car company is almost expected. Both Tesla and Fisker are American companies. Tesla is building a manufacturing plant in CA and it sounds like Fisker is going to be American built, at least for the mass produced version. Yes, Teslas are currently British built but that's for their supercar and first model.

    Seeding electric car startups is one way we're going to rebuild the American auto industry. Trying to reboot GM and Chrysler might very well be a lost cause, as some of us had suggested. If these two companies are successful, they will allow America to leapfrog the Japanese and Germans in the making of efficient cars. The Chinese are trying to do the same thing. An electric car is in many ways much simpler than a gasoline driven one. All the accumulated advantages and knowledge of traditional car companies go out the window because the electric motor has a lot less parts than a gasoline engine.

    If you disagree with government aid to companies, then it doesn't matter what kind of companies, venture, or backers a companies has. However, if you are OK with some government aid, then Tesla and Fisker are pretty good choices in my opinion. For once, instead of aiding old, antiquated corporations, the government is aiding nimble startups that can potential disrupt and jolt an entire industry.

  • Greenwash (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Conspicuous Coward (938979) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @11:59AM (#29548739)

    The consumerist faux environmentalism backed by mainstream politicians like Gore is little more than fraud intended to enrich them personally.

    The last thing a sports car, any sports car, can be is green. Sports cars are toys for the rich that consume massive amounts of energy both in their production and their use. Whether that energy is elecric or fossil fuel is almost secondary at this point. As a species we need to both make massive cuts in our energy use and change the way we generate that energy if we are to have any hope of survival.

    If you take environmentalism seriously it means no more cars full stop. At least for the forseeable future. Putting a 50-100kg person inside a ton of steel is simply not an energy efficient method of transportation.

    If you think AGW is some kind of fraud, why build electic cars at all? if you take the predictions of climate scientists remotely seriously you need to realise that the infinite growth demanded by consumerism is an insane pipe dream that will desroy us.

  • by Slugster (635830) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @12:08PM (#29548791)
    Al Gore, saviour of Gaia, is going to pocket huge amounts of money in a Us government-funded foreign-business deal to build a hybrid Camaro?

    Well, color me a retarded limp-dicked tofu-eating socialist.
    I never would have guessed this would happen...
    ~
  • Military transports were just not big enough to shovel the money out of the country, now we are using freighters.

  • by nokiator (781573) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @03:07PM (#29549729) Journal
    This way this article is quoted on the Slashdot is nothing but politically motivated propaganda and is full of non-facts. Of course, not many will bother to do a minimal amount of research which would reveal that most ($359.36 million portion) of this loan will be directed to Fisker's Project Nina, an effort by the automaker to develop a lower-cost, higher-volume plug-in hybrid car by late 2012.

    Also, many adults are not able to understand the difference between "million" and "billions". The total amount of the government loan (not handout) of given to these two innovative automakers add up to less than a billion dollars. Compared that to nearly a trillion dollars that has been spent over the last year to rescue banks and investment bankers. It is very likely that a lot more than a billion dollars of the government handout to the banks was used to paid "guaranteed bonuses" for the executives who were (ir)responsible for bringing their financial institutions to the brink of bankruptcy. And the "Citizens Against Government Waste" somewhat did not bother to make any comments regarding the $1 Trillion handout to Wall Street...

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