Fisker Closes $189M Round, Tees Up for Federal Loans

Fisker Automotive, an Irvine, Calif.-based startup working on plug-in hybrid vehicles, has closed its latest equity financing round at $189 million — a major step toward meeting the startup’s cost sharing requirements for green car projects backed by Uncle Sam. The $189 million round includes $35 million committed by unnamed investors late on Friday, as well as $115 million secured in January as part of a round kick-started by investment from battery supplier A123 Systems (s AONE).

This latest financing, which according to Fisker brings the startup’s total private investment to more than $300 million, comes less than six weeks after the Obama administration announced that the Department of Energy and Fisker had finalized the agreement for $528.7 million in low-interest direct loans under the DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program.

Awarded on a conditional basis back in September 2009, the loans are meant to help Fisker launch its luxury plug-in hybrid model, the Fisker Karma, and set up manufacturing in Delaware (at an old General Motors (s GM) plant in Wilmington) for a line of lower-cost plug-in hybrids. ATVM loans can cover only 80 percent of project costs — which means startups like Fisker (and Tesla Motors, which has nabbed a $465 million award under the program) need to come up with hefty capital before they can tap the government cash.

Fisker filed a document with financial regulators early last month showing that it planned to raise a total of nearly $175 million in an equity round, and that it had already raised $100 million of that. In a separate filing on the same day (May 5), a group called Fisker Holdings backed by the auto startup’s investors (likely an affiliate formed to raise funding) said it was in the process of raising equity, options, and securities worth more than $232.7 million and had already raised $202 million of that.

The DOE awarded $169.3 million of the ATVM funds to help Fisker complete the Karma and launch it later this year, with development taking place in the U.S. and more than 65 percent of the components (based on cost) coming from domestic companies, but assembly slated for overseas. The other $359.36 million is set to go toward U.S. production of “family oriented” models in the Project Nina lineup, slated to launch with a $39,000 (after federal tax credits) plug-in sedan in late 2012.

For Tesla, it took at least seven months between the time of the initial loan announcement (late June 2009) and the first funds actually rolling out the door (February 2010). For Fisker, finalizing the loan and accessing funds has taken longer than Fisker and one of its chief backers and suppliers expected.

Photo courtesy of Fisker Automotive

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