Fisker EV’s plans for underused Foxconn site collide with Wisconsin auto sales rules

Fisker Inc.’s intention to make low-cost electric vehicles in the United States with Foxconn has raised hopes that the Taiwanese giant’s massive industrial site in Wisconsin may begin to justify the hype that has garnered it hype. billion dollars in state subsidies. But as the EV startup bolsters its production plans, state rules prohibiting automakers from selling directly to consumers are a stumbling block.

Fisker said in May he was reviewing at least four potential sites to produce the PEAR (an acronym for the Personal Electric Automotive Revolution), designed by the Los Angeles-based company using new vehicle architecture developed by Foxconn, including the Mt. Nice, Wisconsin, facility. It’s a potentially ideal location, but state laws that only allow franchised car dealerships to sell vehicles require the company to research other locations.

“The only sticking point for Fisker – now it’s still Foxconn’s decision – but the only sticking point for me would be that I don’t want to start producing your current state where I can sell my car directly,” CEO and co-founder Henrik Fisker tells Forbes. “If they change them, I think they will be in the lead, but at the moment they are not.”

Like Tesla, Fisker wants to sell its electric vehicles directly to customers from its website and corporate stores. This is a problem in many states where powerful and politically influential dealer groups have helped shape rules to avoid retail competition from automakers. Elon Musk’s powerhouse fought with state legislatures for a decade to allow Tesla to build its own stores, including the one in Wisconsin. The company has a showroom and service center in Milwaukee, although sales are not allowed there. Yet although Texas also bans direct sales from automakers, Tesla is building a new plant near Austin to produce Model Y sedans and Cybertruck pickups.

Unlike Tesla, Fisker relies on manufacturing partners to market its vehicles rather than building its own factories. Production of the battery-powered Ocean SUV begins at the end of 2022 at Magna’s vehicle assembly plant in Graz, Austria. Priced at around $ 38,000, Fisker says he will have 25,000 reservations for the model this year and 50,000 by the start of production next year.

The PEAR will be a smaller, cheaper vehicle designed for urban use and priced at around $ 30,000 before tax incentives. Fisker has not yet shared any detailed images or features, but wants to start production by the end of 2023. He plans to have Foxconn’s capacity to produce up to 150,000 units per year. But it remains to be seen where that will happen.

“We have expressed our opinion on” the Wisconsin automobile sales rules, said Henrik Fisker, without giving details. “I hope they might consider putting something in place that would allow us.”

David Callender, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, declined to comment on the issue.

Foxconn’s Wisconsin facility, which received tax breaks worth an estimated $ 4 billion when it was announced in 2017, has become a white elephant well below expectations. The company fell short of its original goal of building a $ 10 billion flat panel display manufacturing plant and employing up to 13,000 people. The Taiwanese company and Wisconsin reached a new agreement in April with reduced tax breaks for a much smaller manufacturing facility there, although details of Foxconn’s new plans for the Mount Pleasant site were not disclosed.

The location of the plant, near the heart of the automotive and parts manufacturing in the United States, transportation networks, water pipes, sewers and other industrial necessities makes it an exceptional site that impresses the career car designer Fisker.

“It’s not just a facility, it’s an industrial park and I was really amazed at the type of work that was done by Foxconn and the infrastructure that was done by Wisconsin,” he said. -he declares. “It’s an amazing site, frankly, also in terms of the fiber optic cables, the power generators that have been put in, it’s clearly an amazing place to produce a car.”

Fisker shares rose 3.3% to $ 14.95 at 11:54 a.m. on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.

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