Where will the Fisker Atlantic be built?

Fisker Atlantic side viewFisker Automotive’s long-awaited second model, the Atlantic, is an important car for both the company and consumers. It’s lower price and higher production volume will increase Fisker’s profits and market share, while giving more people the opportunity to buy into Henrik Fisker’s vision of green motoring. The Atlantic was also supposed to help the U.S. economy, because Fisker said it would be built in a former General Motors plant near Wilmington, Delaware. However, that plan has changed.

“The whole plan has changed, Fisker CEO Tom LaSorda told Automotive News, “Wilmington is our primary site…but there are other options. We have to look at what’s best for the company and the shareholders.”

A decision on where the Atlantic will be built should be made by the end of the summer, LaSorda said. This will push back the car’s introduction, since it was supposed to start pilot production by the second half of 2012. If Wilmington is chosen, the plant could be readied for production very quickly, according to the Fisker CEO, who said the plant just needed a paint shop.

So Fisker has a car, but no factory. The Atlantic, which had gone by the codename “Project Nina” for months, was unveiled last week just ahead of the New York Auto Show. It applies the “EV-ER” extended-range electric technology from Fisker’s Karma to a smaller vehicle. It is powered by an electric motor, with batteries charged by a gasoline engine. The Atlantic will likely coast between $50,000 and $60,000.

Aside from its nearly emission-free powertrain, the Atlantic’s biggest selling point was the Wilmington plant, which was expected to create hundreds of jobs. A U.S. factory probably helped Fisker secure loans from the Department of Energy, which were used to develop the Karma. The DOE has refused to loan Fisker any more money, which would have helped finish development work on the Atlantic. Instead, Fisker secured $132 million in private capital in March.

Fisker’s corporate offices are in Orange County California. Assembly of Karma sedans is contracted to Finland’s Valmet (which also builds some Porsche Boxster and Cayman models). The Karma’s batteries are assembled at A123 Systems in Livonia, Michigan, and its gasoline engine-generator is supplied by General Motors.

No longer beholden to the DOE, Fisker is now free to explore other options for production of the Atlantic. Fisker may be able to secure a better plant, or contract Atlantic production to another company and avoid the costs of opening its own factory. In the meantime, the Atlantic will be a very pretty conversation piece, but it will not make anyone any money, or save the planet with low-emission luxury. LaSorda said Fisker is doing what is best for its shareholders, but it’s hard to see how delaying production of this highly-anticipated car by almost a year will benefit anyone.