Fisker Automotive, UAW Close to Agreement

All-electric carmaker, Fisker Automotive, hopes to finalize its acquisition of a defunct GM plant located in Delaware by next January and is currently hammering out the details that would allow the United Auto Workers union to represent its labor force.

Founder and CEO Henrik Fisker is optimistic that an agreement can be reached and told attendees of the Reuters Autos Summit in Detroit , “We’re doing some negotiations with the UAW that are going to go through in the coming months.”

Fisker has ambitious plans for the former GM assembly plant which is being acquired from General Motors Co [GM.UL] which was formed to facilitate the liquidation of assets in accordance with GM’s recent bankruptcy restructuring.

Fisker Automotive, which is headquartered in Southern California, plans to build a number of plug-in electric vehicles at the Delaware facilities which once produced the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice.

The plant is reportedly being sold to Fisker for $18 million.

Funding for the purchase will come in part from the $528 million in low-cost federal loans Fisker was awarded by the Department of Energy’s $25 billion Advanced Technologies Vehicle Manufacturing loan program. The federal loan program was established to fund the research and development of high efficiency and alternative fuel vehicles. Other recipients include Ford, Nissan and Tesla Motors.

Henrik Fisker said that his meetings with UAW president, Ron Gettelfinger, have been positive, and he is optimistic that labor costs will be kept low enough to allow the automaker to export up to half of the facilities annual output which he expects to reach about 100,000 units.

Fisker says, “I think from the talks we have had with the UAW and Ron Gettelfinger and some others in the organization that they’re ready to make this a success and they’re committed to it. We’re ready to work with them and for this to be a success.”

Gettelfinger, who was also in attendance at the Reuters Auto Summit, also expressed optimism and said, “These guys seem to have it together. If you look at speed of execution for a start-up, it seems sort of amazing what they can do.” Specifically referencing the Delaware plant, Gettelfinger said, “We’re very hopeful that we’ll be able to represent workers there.”

In recent years, Detroit’s Big 3 automakers as well as many foreign automakers have gravitated toward setting up manufacturing operations in Mid-Atlantic and Southern states where the UAW has less influence in order to reduce labor costs. Fisker, however, said that purchasing the old GM plant in Delaware makes more sense on a number of levels.

He said, “One of the things that drew us [to Delaware] was the skilled work force. If you’re a start-up you could maybe go somewhere in the South and buy a greenfield and invest hundreds of millions of dollars but I think what’s important for Fisker is to get skilled workers who have assembled cars and who understand what it takes to build a car.”

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