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China's Wanxiang looking to invest in Fisker Automotive

By: By Meribah Knight
CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS

January 30, 2013

ELGIN, ILL. -- Wanxiang America Corp. is interested in investing in electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc.

According to Wanxiang, an Elgin, Ill.-based subsidiary of China's Wanxiang Group, it is looking into how it can help the Anaheim, Calif.-based automaker as a key supplier, strategic partner or investor.

Wanxiang has spent much of the last decade scooping up more than two dozen troubled American companies. Yet despite rumors, Wanxiang has no plans to purchase the Fisker Karma hybrid maker; rather, the company told Crain's, it is interested only in offering a helping hand.

As of late, Wanxiang has been in the news after winning the bidding for A123 Systems Inc., a bankrupt battery maker based in Waltham, Mass. Rival bidder Glendale, Wis.-based Johnson Controls Inc. challenged the Bankruptcy Court's decision, citing national security concerns related to A123's core technology. Late on Jan. 28, Wanxiang said, a U.S. court and the Committee for Foreign Investment in the U.S., an interagency body that screens transactions that could jeopardize national security, approved the takeover.

The Fisker Karma hybrid uses a lithium-ion battery made by A123 — also a current investor in Fisker, according to Wanxiang.

Last year, Fisker Automotive had two incidents involving fires in its Fisker Karma hybrids: one while the hybrid was parked in a garage in May and the second in a parking lot in August.

Any investment by Wanxiang, whether in Fisker or anywhere else, requires approval from the Chinese government, which Wanxiang America has not yet received, according to the company.

Fisker, which was launched in 2007, went into production in 2011 with the Karma. The four-door sports car is listed at roughly $100,000.