Fisker files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware

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Reuters reports that Fisker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday, pointing Henrik Fisker's second independent automotive act into what looks like the same dramatic close as his first act. The Chapter 11 filing, as opposed to Chapter 13, suggests company efforts to stay in business by shedding assets and working out deals with creditors. On the former front, the paperwork filed in Delaware lists estimated asset value at between $500 million to $1 billion against estimated liabilities of between $100 million and $500 million. On the latter front, Adobe, Google, and SAP are listed as among the 20 largest creditors.

A company spokesperson said, "Like other companies in the electric vehicle industry, we have faced various market and macroeconomic headwinds that have impacted our ability to operate efficiently." While that is indisputably true, Fisker's much larger problem was launching a woefully unfinished Ocean SUV, full of novelties and beautiful outside, almost entirely undercooked inside. Fisker is not the only EV maker to have done this, nor is Fisker the only EV maker to come apart after having done so. CEO Henrik Fisker blamed software issues, the same bane that's tripped up multi-billion-dollar blue chips like Volkswagen and Volvo and General Motors in the EV space, and continues to do so. Fisker, though, unlike those other companies, had no stable of traditional moneymaking products to keep the company out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. 

It's not clear if Fisker has a way out of that valley, either; prospects from the outside look dim. Fixing the Ocean, addressing the NHTSA investigations, and restarting production would require enormous sums of money, and it's not clear Fisker has the expertise and will to do those things even if it got the money. Rebuilding the incinerated goodwill of the past few months among buyers and interested shoppers — the nadir being trying to sell Oceans to Fisker employees for $20,000 plus taxes and fees — would cost even more in time and funds. At the time of writing, CarFax lists 173 Fisker Oceans for sale nationwide, all low miles, prices ranging from $26,000 to $46,000. In an age when you can't guarantee a video game will work if the developer goes kaput, how many buyers are going to take a chance on an already-buggy software-defined vehicle when the manufacturer is standing on the brink?

Oh, the puns we could make for this one, but to do so would be mean to a company and a product we wanted to see do well. A sorted-out Ocean would have sold, and a sorted-out Pear could have been special. What we will say is that Karma Automotive, fashioned from ashes of Fisker's first car company, has a chance to do the funniest thing in the world right now.

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