The Future of American Auto Manufacturing Sprouts in...Delaware?

Fisker Automotive will repurpose an old G.M. factory to churn out plug-in hybrids, saving thousands of jobs. What's not to like?

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Green jobs, hybrid autos, the revival of domestic manufacturing--Fisker Automotive's purchase of a GM plant has all the trappings of a Democratic administration's dream. Vice President Biden got to do the honors on Tuesday, snipping the ribbon at the old Delaware auto factory that the California luxury carmaker is repurposing to churn out plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Is Delaware the future of American auto manufacturing? Perhaps. Green techies and business analysts are almost uniformly positive about the decision, which could save thousands of jobs, and put stylish, $40,000 plug-ins on the road in 2012. While praising the move, some ask why Delaware was chosen over harder-hit Michigan. Skeptics note that the rush for green cars has more to do with ample government incentives than consumer demand.

  • Repurposing Auto Plants the Smart Way to Go, says Justin Moresco at Earth2Tech. "Buying a shuttered GM plant would seem to be a smart move. The plant, which according to the Wall Street Journal, once assembled the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice, should be able to be renovated to meet Fisker's needs more easily and quickly than a facility that had a history unrelated to car manufacturing. And given GM's economic woes and the state of the economy, Kleiner Perkins-backed Fisker should get a good price for the assets, though the company has not released financial details of the agreement."
  • East Coast May Be the New Center of Manufacturing, says Matthew DeBord at the Big Money. "What's good here is that old auto manufacturing is being used to make new cars. What's curious is that Fisker, which is based in Irvine, Calif., decided to locate its U.S. manufacturing in Delaware, while most of the electric-car startups are setting up shop either in the West or in Michigan. So now the First State will have a piece of electric-car revolution. Does this presage some kind of East Coast answer to Silicon Valley-ification of EVs? Well, Fisker isn't alone."
  • Fisker the Best Company for the Job, says Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel. "Time will tell, but on the front end this looks like a wonderful deal in a lot of ways. Fisker is a company that has been putting the pieces together behind the scenes for a couple of years for a major production move, and their initial prototype, and soon to be production model, the Karma, is absolutely stunning and, from all reports, technologically sound. Wilmington is an area that, while not as hard hit as Detroit, is certainly depressed and has been further decimated by the recent closing of the large GM plant there as well as a separate Chrysler plant. When fully up and running, the Fisker Nina plant in Wilmington may be able to reemploy many, if not most, of those orphaned workers." But, she asks, "how about Michigan? If there is any place in America that could use just this kind of stimulus more than Michigan, it is hard to figure where it would be."
  • Supplying a Non-Existent Demand, suggest Jeff Green and Alan Ohnsman in a report for Bloomberg. "Electric-car makers ranging from Ford Motor Co. to California startups are using $11 billion in taxpayer funds to supply a market that doesn't yet exist." The headline for the report claims that manufacturers are simply taking advantage of "U.S. cash" for electric cars to "blunt risks."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.