Fisker goes bankrupt. What will its EV owners do now?


this was it It’s the last week of June, and José de Bardi hasn’t gotten much sleep. The trouble really started on June 18, about a week earlier, when electric vehicle company Fisker announced it had filed for bankruptcy protection. Now about 6,400 Fisker owners like de Bardi are wondering: What will happen to their cars in the future?

The bankruptcy “fueled the fire,” de Bardy says. “If we were to have any chance of representing the owners’ interests, we had to get organized.” Within days, he and a few other Fisker vehicle owners founded a nonprofit called the Fisker Owners Association, dedicated to keeping their cars running. (Hence, the lack of sleep.) By the end of the month, 1,200 owners — that’s about a fifth of all Fisker cars sold — had registered through the group’s website, de Bardy says.

The questions from Fisker vehicle owners are mostly practical. Fisker began shipping its electric SUV, the Ocean, last year, with prices starting at $41,000 and going up to $70,0000. Immediately, the vehicles were found to have serious build quality flaws and software issues, including a less-than-responsive central touchscreen. (WIRED’s reviewer declined to fully rate the vehicle, saying it “isn’t ready yet.”)

Owners reported that some of the most serious issues, including difficult to use brake hold and problems with Bluetooth connectivity, have been fixed through software updates. But owners sometimes complained that it was difficult to get their vehicles serviced or repaired because Fisker didn’t have enough certified repairmen and technicians. Fisker initially launched with a Tesla-like “direct to consumer” model that eschewed the traditional “middleman” dealerships often seen in the U.S. But in January, the company began signing up dealerships for a new Fisker network, citing rising costs associated with the direct model.

Even now, as Fisker’s carcass is being raised, the EVs still have minor issues—cracks in the window, bad key-fobs, sudden connectivity blackouts—and will undoubtedly require servicing and spare parts to keep them running in the future. Without Fisker, the company, to provide all of this, what will owners do?

The FOA is still in the early stages of figuring this out. A small group of volunteers has worked around the clock to figure out what problems owners might face in the future — legal questions about financing their vehicle; problems with the car’s app; finding parts — and has begun to solve them. These people also have full-time jobs. For example, de Bardy, who lives in the UK and has led the European owners’ efforts, is also the CTO of a telecoms firm.

Experts say the situation facing Fisker’s owners is becoming increasingly difficult. Automotive companies have a strategy for dealing with bankruptcy, developed during the 2008 financial crisis, which led General Motors and Chrysler, like Fisker, to file for Chapter 11 protection. Thanks to support from the U.S. government, those automakers were able to honor their vehicles’ warranties as the companies restructured.

But in legal proceedings in Delaware this month, Fisker’s situation looked even more dire. Lawyers for the firm’s creditors argued that Fisker should have filed for bankruptcy late last year. And Fisker plans to sell its remaining inventory, about 4,000 vehicles, to a firm that leases electric vehicles to Uber and Lyft drivers in New York City, lawyers told the court.


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