Hybrid Tech Holdings LLC, one of the bidders for control of failed luxury car maker Fisker Automotive Inc., has hired a former top Ford Motor Co. F -0.87% executive to orchestrate the restart of operations if it wins.
The Chinese company, formed by Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li, said it retained Martin Leach to bring Fisker out of mothballed status. Mr. Leach has worked at Ford, Mazda Motor Corp. 7261.TO +2.04% and Maserati, and now owns automotive consulting firm Magma Group.
Fisker once planned to build cars at a former General Motors Co. GM -3.35% factory in Delaware using a $529 million loan from the U.S. government, but the company ran out of money and stopped operating, owing the government about $168 million.
Hybrid Tech is locked in a bidding war with another Chinese firm, auto-parts maker Wanxiang Group, over the bankrupt luxury auto maker's assets, including the Delaware plant site.
Wanxiang also plans to restart Fisker's operations as soon as possible following a successful bid, said Pin Ni, president of the American arm of the company. Final bids for Fisker were due Feb. 7, and an auction for the company starts on Wednesday. Fisker filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 22.
Mr. Leach said in an interview that his job would be to get operations moving while new workers are hired.
"Clearly, there is an awful lot to be done with Fisker," he said. "We will assist in on-boarding all the necessary talent that is required and starting the process of engaging the suppliers and the dealers."
Mr. Leach's group is now trying to re-establish supply agreements with 250 parts makers and other vendors, and looks to restart production in Finland, where the Fisker Karma had been built. All told, about 2,000 Fisker Karmas were built. He also is trying to re-establish agreements with dealers among the group that had operated before the company failed.
Fisker hasn't made any vehicles since July 2012, though there are a few hundred remaining on dealer lots around the world.
Hybrid Tech also has retained Boston-Power Inc. to supply the large lithium-ion batteries used in the Karma. The previous battery supplier for Fisker was A123 Systems, a company now owned by Wanxiang.
Hybrid Tech has offered $55 million for Fisker, while Wanxiang has offered $35 million, plus 20% equity in the new entity to creditors.
Wanxiang's proposal to purchase Fisker relies on convincing the judge and creditors that it has a better plan to run the company, because it implies that the 20% equity stake given to creditors would eventually be valuable down the road.
Mr. Leach said he wouldn't repeat the mistakes of the previous management and push out a car that was unfinished. He said he is planning an overhaul of the Karma, making 200 improvements, including to the electronics and making fixes to other areas of the vehicle.
When the Karma went on sale in 2011, electrical and mechanical problems plagued it. Executives who worked at the company at the time said it was released too early. Only a few months after it went on sale, A123 had to recall the expensive batteries because of a manufacturing flaw that could cause them to fail.
Mr. Leach said Fisker has moved its headquarters to Irvine, Calif., and a small number of people still work at the company.
Fisker was the recipient of a $529 million Energy Department loan. It drew down about $192 million of the loan before the government froze it because the company failed to hit development targets for a smaller, less expensive vehicle that was to be built in the U.S. at the former GM site in Delaware.
Mr. Li, an early investor in Fisker, purchased the defaulted loan from the government for $25 million. Owning the debt gives him the ability to use it as a pledge toward purchasing the company's assets.
The future of the dormant plant in Delaware still is up in the air. Mr. Leach said the plant is too large to assemble Fisker vehicles affordably, but he hasn't made a final determination on what to do with the plant if Hybrid Tech is successful in its purchase.