former G.M. plant
is cause for a gala celebration
renewed its long-standing relationship with the automobile
industry in festive fashion as officials including the Vice
President of the United States ceremoniously welcomed Fisker
Automotive to the state.
Calif.-based firm has signed a letter of intent with the
liquidation firm wrapping up the bankruptcy of the former
General Motors Corp. to purchase the G.M. assembly plant on
Boxwood Road in Christiana Hundred for $18 million. Fisker
Automotive has said it will invest an additional $175 million to
retool the factory to produce the Nina, a plug-in hybrid sedan
it is developing.
the plant, which has been idle since June, has not actually
changed hands yet and it will be about three years before the
first Nina comes off the assembly line, Henrik Fisker, told a
cheering crowd estimated to be well over 500 people that the
ceremony on Oct. 27 marked the beginning of the manufacturing
stage, several months ahead of schedule.
He called it "the
most dramatic change in the automotive business since we moved
from the horse to the automobile."
While a large
portion of the audience consisted of men and women rendered
jobless by the plant closure and
the possibility of
being hired to work
there again obviously loomed large in their minds, Fisker's
comments and those by Governor Jack Markel and the state's
three-member congressional delegation, served as the audience
warm-up for Vice President Biden, who was introduced simply as
"our Joe" by Dave Myers, president of United Auto Workers
He delivered a
spirited oration hailing the plant's relatively quick sale as a
prime example of how the Obama administration is "rewriting a
chief executive officer of Fisker Automotive, speaks
at the ceremony marking the sale of the former
General Motors plant. Behind him are (from the
left): United Auto Workers local president Dave
Myers, Governor Jack Markell, Senator Ted Kaufman,
Vice President Biden, Senator Tom Carper (hidden),
Congressman Mike Castle (also hidden) and Ed
Montgomery, executive director of the White House
Council for Automotive Communities and Workers.
new chapter for our
economy." The deal was made possible by a $528.7 million U.S.
Department of Energy 'stimulus' loan to Fisker, of which $359 million was directed to the
investing just in a facility; we're investing in a new
industry," Biden exclaimed. "It's not a subsidy; it's seed
money. ... That's what the Recovery Act is all about."
Fisker has said the
project will provide direct employment for about 2,000 people in
Delaware by 2014 while supporting another 3,000 jobs with the
plant's vendors and suppliers.
Moreover, the firm
intends to market the new vehicle worldwide with about half of
the production at Boxwood to be exported through the Port of
Wilmington. The plant is expected to turn out 75,000 to 100,000
cars a year when it achieves full production capacity.
"We will again lead
the world in the manufacture of automobile," Biden said. "It's a
bad bet to bet against America."
is to be mainly powered by an electric motor driven by an easily
rechargeable battery which will produce enough energy to cover
more than an average day's driving. If it is depleted,
fuel-efficient gasoline-powered motor will kick in.
describes the Nina as family-oriented and "affordable." Henrik
Fisker confirmed that the car is expected to sell for $39,900.
It will be possible, he said, "to still enjoy a beautiful fast
car but still get over 100 miles to the gallon."
actually create cars that are desirable to the rest of the
world," he said.
a native of
has a worldwide reputation in the field of auto design. His
firm, which is privately owned, was founded in 2007. According
to Reuters news service, the firm has “a vision to lead the
automotive industry into the next generation of automobiles with
high-end design expertise and eco-friendly powertrain
first product, the hybrid Karma, is scheduled to go on sale in
the United Sates and in Europe next summer.
Markel said being
able to interest a buyer in the closed plant was the result if
Delaware's being "truly a state of neighbors."
When G.M. was
approaching bankruptcy "we did everything we could think of to
make sure this plant stayed open," the governor said. When that
failed, "our people were not done fighting."
Fisker said he was
impressed by the cooperation he witnessed as the state supplied
information and support for his company's site decision. Markel,
Fisker said, assembled officials in his office "faster than I
can pull my family together for dinner." The effort was capped,
he added, by "a personal call from the Vice President of the
United States of America."
Senator Tom Carper
noted that the Boxwood Road plant opened in March, 1947 -- "two
months after I was born" -- and had been a mainstay in the
Delaware economy since then. Actually, the state's association
with the industry goes back much further. John J. Raskob,
secretary of the Du Pont Co. and resident of Claymont at the
time, is credited with have 'saved' the original General Motors
by reorganizing it in the 1920s.
As it happened, the
Fisker Automotive ceremony took place just three days after the
University of Delaware announced acquisition of the former
Chrysler automobile plant. The university said it intends to
turn that property into a research and industrial site. The
Newark plant also was a victim of a corporate bankruptcy.