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Wanxiang Group’s purchase of A123 Systems Inc. has been approved by the U.S. government, despite concerns of sensitive technology being transferred to China.
Bankrupt battery manufacturer A123 Systems expects its sale to Chinese firm Wangxiang to be complete in a little over a week.
Johnson Controls, the sole American bidder to U.S. battery maker A123, is appealing the company’s sale to Chinese firm Wanxiang Group.
A year riddled with controversy for electric cars is winding down, but not without at least one more flare up — Chinese firm Wanxiang Group won the bidding war for A123 Systems.
Bankrupt battery maker A123 Systems was scheduled to go up for auction today behind closed doors at a Chicago law firm, but the list of bidders is likely to cause trouble.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney isn’t the only one that’s skeptical about electric vehicles and their development. At an industry panel in New York, executives expressed their criticisms of the electric vehicle market as automakers have quietly shelved strong pushes towards developing EVs.
Yesterday, an explosion was reported at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan and early reports had one or two people injured. An official statement was released by GM that five people were injured, one seriously.
“We are aware of five employees being evaluated on scene by medical personal and only one employee is being further treated,” said GM.
The one employee who was injured seriously is expected to make a full recovery and no one suffered life-threatening injuries in the accident. According to GM, the explosion “was related to extreme testing on a prototype battery,” and of course the American automaker had to include that it was “unrelated to the Chevrolet Volt or any other production vehicle.”
It is being reported that the prototype lithium-ion battery that exploded was manufactured by A123 Systems, who recently had to deal with all the negative press surrounding the Fisker Karma and is already facing financial obstacles.
Watch the news report below.
Start-ups are inherently risky and while many bright-eyed visionaries initially display great potential, up to fifty percent of new enterprises run out of money. Unfortunately, Waltham-based A123 Systems Inc. are at risk of becoming a statistic.
Earlier this month, Consumer Reports reported that a brand-new Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid electric vehicle with less than 200 miles on the odometer abruptly shut down. News of the defect spread quickly, causing Fisker engineers scrambling to identify and solve the problem as soon as possible in an attempt to curb any damage to consumer confidence. Investigators determined the cause of the issue as a flaw in the Fisker’s battery module, which is supplied by A123.
Other than the incident at Consumer Reports, A123 CEO David Vieau told reporters that five Fisker customers are potentially affected by the flawed battery packs. As of March 26, A123 has started building replacement modules for Fisker and will begin to ship these battery packs out to customers this week. Despite moving forward, David Vieau admits that the cost of replacing the batteries will “require us to adjust our fundraising strategy.” Vieau did not elaborate.
Caused by faulty calibration in one of four welding machines, a misalignment of the components in some cells could lead to an electrical short, resulting in the permanent failure of the A123 battery or a decrease in performance and battery life. In order to replace all the defective battery packs, expense figure estimates are close to $55 million, which “represents a severe impact” on cash reserves, stated Dan Galves, New York-based Deutsche Bank analyst.
Galves wrote in a report, “We no longer have enough confidence that AONE can raise sufficient capital (without massive equity dilution) and/or continue to augment their book to future business. Recent quality issues may lead to concerns over AONE’s ability to manufacture with quality at high volumes, potentially leading to customer defections or at least difficulty in procuring new contracts.” AONE refers to A123′s stock symbol.
According to financial reports, A123 held $187 million in cash at the end of 2011 but Galves pointed out A123 suffered a cash burn of at least $155 million this year. The company will have to raise at least $50 million of additional short-term capital but, unfortunately, loan requests will be extremely difficult due to a general lack of confidence due to weak first-half results, long-term profitability concerns, pressure on battery pricing, and uncertainty on EV demand.
Dan Galves changed his rating on A123 from “buy” to “hold.” AONE share price have fallen 6 percent to $1.40 yesterday.
But first, its battery supplier, A123 Systems admitted that it supplied Fisker with defective battery packs and has taken the blame for the notorious glitch on the Consumer Reports’ Fisker Karma. A123 has said that it discovered defects in certain cells made by its plant that can “result in premature failure of the battery module or pack, including a decrease in performance and reduced battery life,” according to CEO David Vieau.
A123 will be replacing all the batteries and estimates it will cost the company about $55 million and will be funded over the next several quarters. Following the news and essentially admittance of guilt by A123 Systems, Fisker sent out its own press release announcing the upgrade of its VIP Customer Care Coverage, which comes with the purchase of every Karma.
The “enhanced” customer care package will now include a complete battery replacement at no cost for all affected 2012 model year vehicles, and all North American customers will receive a full vehicle warranty extension from 50 months/50,000 miles to 60 months/60,000 miles.
“The entire Fisker Team is committed to the complete satisfaction of our customers and their experience with our vehicles. As a new technology start-up Company, we have stepped up to many challenges in our short history as we have launched one of the most advanced electric vehicles with extended range in the world,” said Fisker CEO Tom LaSorda.
Certainly a step in the right direction, but it hardly builds consumer confidence in the Fisker brand. We will wait to see what else Fisker has planned for its Project Nina debut next week.
Now analysts (or at least one analyst) are predicting the inevitable death of Fisker as a company, especially since Fisker apparently did not meet certain loan conditions due to production delays. Up until now, Fisker has received less than $200-million of its $529-million loan from the DOE, and is currently negotiating for some if not all of the remaining balance of the loan.
But with the Obama Administration facing political pressure to reduce spending, there’s a real good chance Fisker will never see the remaining $336-million or so. And without that funding, Fisker could go under and perhaps along with it, A123 Systems, its lithium-ion battery manufacturer.
Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher has played down the issue saying that Fisker is simply enduring a “bump in the road.” Ormisher told The Wall Street Journal that the Karma hasn’t been impacted and Fisker has delivered about 250 vehicles and that the remaining DOE funds were strictly to help produce the Project Nina vehicle.
In a statement released around the same time as the lay offs were done, Fisker said that they were pursuing “alternative funding sources” and that they had raised $260-million in equity in late 2011. But according to the Orange County Register, the newspaper local to Fisker Automotive’s headquarters, Daniel Wray is suing Fisker Automotive for fraud. An investor into the electric automaker, Wray claims that he had invested $210,000 and that Fisker demanded another $84,000 or he’d lose the rights he gained from the original stock purchase.
GALLERY: Fisker Karma
In a very ironic story, battery maker A123 Systems Inc. has admitted to a potential safety issue in batteries it supplies to Fisker Automotive. What’s the irony in that? Well, General Motors, which is currently dealing with a fire safety issue of their own with their Chevy Volt, will be turning to A123 Systems’ batteries for their upcoming plug-in electric Spark rather than continuing to use their current Volt supplier, South Korea’s LG Chem.
A123 is reporting that the batteries supplied to Fisker had misaligned hose clamps, part of the internal cooling system, that can cause coolant to leak. The coolant leak could lead to a potential electrical short circuit. A123 also did express that only about 50 vehicles are impacted by this and fixes are already underway.
Though not as bad as a potential fire hazard, GM’s Volt issue is also being centralized around a coolant leak that causes the fires after the battery has been severely damaged.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]