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Henrik Fisker took his beating, stayed in the ring, and appears to be getting on top of the fight to be an electric vehicle automaker. At the beginning of the week, Fisker Inc. announced a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp, backed by private equity firm Apollo Global Management. The merger would value Fisker at $2.9 billion in preparation for a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. This is the same maneuver Nikola Motors recently employed in order to go public. Spartan filed a trove of documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission in advance of the filing, one of them an investor presentation that explained some backstory and hoped-for production path for Fisker’s Ocean electric crossover. One key piece of info is that Fisker is in talks with Volkswagen about using VW’s MEB modular electric platform and ancillary components for the Ocean. The agreement would include battery packs as well. One slide asserted that “anticipated access to Volkswagen’s industry-leading EV component quality, pricing, and supply chain … accelerates time to market and dramatically reduces vehicle development costs.”
Furthermore, this attempt at deeper collaboration with VW is part of a two-year growing partnership. The Verge went through the presentation, noting that Fisker and VW entered a memorandum of understanding in 2017, upgrading that to a “collaboration agreement” in 2018. Audi subsidiary Italdesign built the Ocean crossover Fisker debuted at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, the prototype described as a “near-series prototype” and sitting an MEB platform. This month, the two companies could sign a “cornerstone agreement” to formalize “costs, production capacity, and a timeline.” If that happens, a contract covering supply and manufacturing would be consummated before the end of 2020. The timeline in the presentation notes earnest prototype testing next year, with production planned for late 2022. Separately, however, Fisker has said, “Prototype vehicles are expected to start durability testing by the end of this year, and we continue to make significant progress on the development of our sales and service proposition.”
If the IPO clears all hurdles, Fisker Inc. could receive $1 billion to put toward Ocean development and production. Meanwhile, a recent funding round secured $50 million from Moore Strategic Ventures. In personnel moves, Fisker recently hired Burkahrd Huhnke to fill the role of chief technology officer, Huhnke formerly involved in EV development at Volkswagen of America. And Fisker told Reuters that his company is also in talks with Magna.
These revelations clear up a lot of mystery about how Fisker planned to stay in business pricing the Ocean, his sole product, at $37,499. He told Automotive News, “We don’t need to make our own electric air conditioning, steering rack, even the platform itself,” and with the experience of one burned, he told Fortune, “It’s really not smart for any EV startup to try and make their own factory.”
As others have noted, dressing up the MEB platform and internals with an Ocean bodyshell would make Fisker an independent version of VW Group brands like Seat and Skoda that are also developing MEB-based offerings. Fisker’s belief is, “Emotional design is going to be in the foreground of vehicle purchasing in the future. We’re going to be the leader in that, both inside and outside [vehicles] and also the entire user interface on the screens in the interior and how you communicate.”
Of course, Ford has the same thing in mind, the U.S. automaker having entered a partnership with VW to build commercial vehicles on the MEB chassis. The reward for VW, beyond earnings from MEB sales to third parties, is showcasing how much differentiation can be achieved on the platform, which could entice more partnerships or MEB sales.
Responding to the Fisker story in The Verge, a spokesperson at the German car company wrote, “Volkswagen is still open to support small series projects that demonstrate the variety of conceivable concepts based on the MEB platform through their emotional appearance. … However, a final decision has not yet been made about a possible cooperation with Fisker to implement a series project.”