May 22, 2013 / 7:24 PM / in 6 years

Fisker fields $20 million offer from Bob Lutz, Wanxiang: sources

DETROIT/TOKYO (Reuters) - A team including former General Motors Co (GM.N) executive Bob Lutz and China’s largest parts maker is looking to buy Fisker Automotive for $20 million, a fraction of the “green” car company’s estimated worth almost a year and a half ago.

Vice Chairman at General Motors, Bob Lutz attends the New York International Auto Show in New York March 31, 2010. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

People familiar with the matter said on Wednesday that VL Automotive, a venture between Lutz and industrialist Gilbert Villarreal, and China’s Wanxiang Group submitted the bid earlier this month to buy Fisker through a prepackaged bankruptcy deal.

This is one of at least two investor groups looking to gain control of Fisker, which has not built a car since July. Earlier this year, the company hired bankruptcy advisers and fired the bulk of its staff, while continuing to seek a buyer.

VL Automotive, Lutz and Pin Ni, president of Wanxiang’s U.S. division, declined to comment. Representatives for Fisker did not immediately comment.

The $20 million bid is a far cry from Fisker’s estimated value during the launch of its flagship Karma plug-in hybrid sports car. In December 2011, Fisker told prospective investors that its total capitalization was “approaching” $2 billion, according to an investor document filing obtained by Reuters.

In the spring of 2012, Fisker competed a fundraising round that valued the company at $2.2 billion, according to regulatory filings analyzed by venture capital data provider VC Experts.

VL Automotive is building a car called the Destino, which has the shell of a Fisker Karma with the powertrain of a Chevrolet Corvette. Wanxiang bought Fisker’s battery supplier out of bankruptcy, a deal that was approved by a U.S. judge this year.

Since its founding in 2007, Fisker has raised $1.2 billion in private funds. The company won a $529 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan, but the department halted payments in mid-2011 after Fisker missed certain performance milestones.

Fisker now owes the DOE about $171 million in loans. A separate team of investors is looking to buy out the DOE’s position in Fisker at a discount, sources previously said.

The DOE declined to comment.

Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman in Detroit and Norihiko Shirouzu in Tokyo; additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Chris Reese, Bernard Orr

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