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http://detnews.com/article/20100513/AUTO01/5130480/1148/rss25?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Detroit News said:
Wilmington, Del. -- Delaware Gov. Jack Markell personally lobbied the Obama administration's top auto adviser to help seal the deal by an electric vehicle startup to acquire a shuttered General Motors plant.

Fisker Automotive Inc. acquired the GM Boxwood plant in Delaware in October for $18 million after it received a $529 million Energy Department loan.

But Fisker also expressed interested in New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. in Fremont, Calif., according to documents released by the Treasury Department and posted online this week.

Judicial Watch, a conservative foundation, filed suit seeking the records, and the department released 109 pages of e-mails in response.

The documents also disclose the Obama administration's active role in trying to find uses for shuttered auto plants.

Delaware was very aggressive in courting Fisker -- with the governor personally e-mailing the top Obama administration auto adviser for help securing funding.

"We've had some very positive conversations with Fisker about the GM plant. We're working hard to reach a satisfactory conclusion," Markell told auto czar Ron Bloom in a Sept. 8 e-mail.

He said the primary hurdle was convincing the Energy Department to approve a $529 million retooling loan.

"The main issue appears to be their loan from the Department of Energy," Markell wrote in a follow-up to Bloom. Markell, a former state treasurer, is a first-term Democrat. Delaware saw both of its major auto factories close -- Chrysler closed its assembly plant in Newark, Del., in December 2008 and the GM plant closed in July 2009.

The e-mails show Fisker was also considering other sites.

Laura Lovelace, an adviser to Fisker and president of Wellford Energy Advisors, said in an Aug. 10 e-mail to the Obama administration's top auto adviser Ron Bloom that the startup was interested in acquiring NUMMI or shuttered GM plants.

Lovelace followed up with Al Koch, who is CEO of "Old GM" -- which is tasked with winding down and selling off the company's "bad assets."

The following day, Koch referred Lovelance to NUMMI, since Old GM has "no ownership of the facilities or ability to direct activity at that company."

But he said the company "can move quickly with respect to GM locations." Koch offered Fisker three GM locations.

Koch said Delaware officials were especially aggressive in courting Fisker.

Markell and state officials are "the model of how a state should respond to an opportunity. If they were firemen they would have the fire truck rolling out of the firehouse before the alarm bell stopped ringing. And, they've really got their act together. Other states could really learn from them," Koch said in a Sept. 9 e-mail to Bloom.

Markell changed his schedule to have dinner with company CEO Henrik Fisker in August as Delaware courted the company.

Another Delaware official wrote Bloom to ask him to help win the Energy Department loan.

"While we can't influence the outcome of the loan decision; it is very important to make sure the application is handled quickly and efficiently," said Larry Windley, state director for Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. "Anything you can do is appreciated. We have a unique opportunity to stage an amazing comeback for the auto industry in Delaware."

Alan Levin, director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, urged Koch to accept a "reasonable" price.

"Fisker is on a tight timetable and our ability to deliver a reasonable price, that fits with their business plan, will go a long way to bringing this matter to a head and put this facility back into operation," Levin wrote.

In late September, Fisker won its low-cost government loan from the Energy Department. Fisker's board approved the deal Oct. 16 and it was announced Oct. 27.

Brian Deese, a White House staffer who was heavily involved in the auto restructuring, noted that the administration was eager to find new uses for plants that were left behind in GM's bankruptcy.

"Some will take months or years to dispose of, while others are closer to prime time," he wrote in an Oct. 18 e-mail to other White House officials. "The first major announcement from this group is slated for October 27, when Fisker Automotive will sign a letter of intent with the Old GM to purchase the GM Assembly plant in Wilmington."

Deese referenced the fact that Fisker is developing an $88,000 plug-in hybrid vehicle due out this year called the Fisker Karma.

"Fisker is an upstart electric carmaker that is purchasing the facility to build their first 'affordable' electric car in the U.S.," Deese wrote.

He noted that few jobs will be created initially.

"One important caveat: This isn't an immediate jobs story. Fisker will have a skeleton crew into the plant to begin the retooling and reengineering, but won't have a production line up and running until 2011."

Fisker will build a new $48,000 family sedan at the Wilmington plant that will retail for around $40,000 after tax incentives.
 
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