Kevin Cody

Tesla Town no more, Fisker moves auto headquarters into Manhattan Beach

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The Fisker EMotion. Photo by JP Coredero

by Kevin Cody

Moments after ringing the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange floor Monday morning, Henrik Fisker met in Manhattan Beach with newly reelected Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery and Continental Development CEO Richard Lundquist. 

The virtual bell ringing celebrated Fisker Inc.’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange (FSR). The company raised $1 billion when it went public last month.

Continendtal Development’s Richard Lundquist, Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Motgomery and Fisker founder Henrik Fisker. Photo by JP cordero

The Montgomery and Lundquist meeting celebrated Fisker’s opening of its new world headquarters in a 72,000 square foot, glass clad building at the Manhattan Beach corner of Rosecrans and Aviation boulevards. The building is owned by Continental Development. Its previous tenant was True Religion Jeans, from 2015, when the building was refurbished, until last April when True Religion went bankrupt.

The bankruptcy coincided with Fisker’s plan to move from a Torrance office park to a larger, newly refurbished, former manufacturing building in El Segundo. But shortly before making the move, Fisker learned the site was not zoned for adequate parking.

Lundquist said he and Fisker reached an “elbow to elbow” agreement in September and signed a lease 10 days later.

The lease meant more to Lundquist than quickly finding a tenant for his large, abruptly vacated building.

Richard Lundquist admires the Fisker Emotion. Photo by JP Cordero

Lundquist is a car collector. His 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C-SS Figoni & Falaschi Teardrop Cabriolet placed First in Class in the European Classic Open Competition at last year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. 

“Fisker’s presence adds to the South Bay’s reputation as a car design center,” Lundquist said at Monday morning’s events. His Continental Park building, on Rosecrans, down the street from Fisker, was the original home of Calty, Toyota’s first U.S. auto design center. Motor Trend occupies another Continental building, a block north of Rosecrans, in El Segundo. Tesla’s headquarters are in Hawthorne, five miles northeast of Fisker. 

After taking photos with his iPhone of the Fisker Ocean SUV and EMotion prototypes, displayed in front of the new Fisker headquarters, Lundquist told Fisker, he and his wife Melanie were bringing a deposit to their dinner that evening with Fisker and Fisker’s wife and CEO Geeta.

Fisker has received 9,000 deposits for the Ocean SUV, a number equal to its proposed 2022-23 production. 

Lundquist didn’t say whether his deposit would be for the Ocean, which resembles the slope roofed Range Rover, or the EMotion sports car, which resembles no other car on the planet. But the low profile, press averse Lundquist’s daily driver is a Buick SUV.

Henrik Fisker and Richard Lundquist with the Ocean SUV. Photo by JP Cordero

Fisker is a Danish born, an ArtCenter Pasadena graduate whose designs include the BMW Z8, the Aston Martin’s DB9, the Galpin-Fisker Mustang Rocket, the Viking motorcycle and Benetti Fisker 50 (meter) superyacht.  In 2011, he began manufacturing the Fisker Karma, the first luxury hybrid automobile. Though praised by auto enthusiasts, the company went bankrupt in 2013.

In an interview following Monday morning’s official activities in Manhattan Beach, Fisker was asked how the new Fisker will avoid the fate of the old Fisker.

“We learned our lesson,” he answered.

“We raised enough by going public — $1 billion — to get into production. Instead of building our own automotive factory, our cars are being built by Magna, an experienced auto manufacturer. I know from my work at Ford and BMW how long it takes to ramp up production of a new car. But we built the Ocean SUV prototype in just eight weeks. We’ll begin production in 18 months,” he said.

“We are not just building a new electric car. We are creating a new way to build cars, by building with someone else’s manufacturing facilities,” he said. 

“We’re the first ‘asset light,’ car company,” he said. “Our organization is very lean. We’re the first digital car company. We’ve learned from COVID-19 that everything can be done digitally, much of it from home. We’ll deliver cars to customers’ homes and offices.”

Shortly after the virtual bell ringing on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Fisker stock rose to $22 a share, nearly double what it had been trading for. The reason was a new, analyst’s report, praising Fisker’s decision to build its cars at Magna’s factory in Austria. Tesla, the analyst noted, spent months and billions of dollars building the Tesla factory in Fremont.

Improvements in technology and new battery manufacturers were other reasons Fisker gave for the 2022 Ocean SUV and the Emotion avoiding the fate of his Fisker Karma.

“Our battery manufacturer for the Karma went bankrupt,” he noted.

Fisker was asked how he will be differentiate his cars from Tesla

At $37,000, the Ocean SUV is the same price as the 2021 Tesla 3 and the same price as the average new car in the U.S.

“We’re building an SUV, not a hatchback. SUV is the fastest growing segment of the auto market,” he said.

But then he added, “Our competition isn’t other electric car manufacturers. It’s high end, gasoline powered cars like BMW. Our mission is to get people out of gas polluting cars into electric vehicles. “Between 2023 and 2025, we will see an explosion in the demand for electric cars. We want to be there with the coolest one available, at an affordable price.

“We have solar panels on our roofs, making Fisker the first truly environmentally sustainable, zero emission car. The interior is vegan, not leather. It’s made from recycled tires, plastic recovered from the ocean and old fishing nets.”

Fisker’s lease plan, he said, is another auto industry innovation, designed to resemble subscription models popular with young consumers.

“There are no three- to four-year commitments, so you won’t have to worry about batteries. Because you’ll be able to give the car back at any time. The $379 per month includes full service,” he said.

The Fisker Ocean SUV is designed to reflect Southern California. Photo by JP Cordero

Mayor Montgomery, upon being introduced to Fisker, told him Manhattan Beach has 250 EV charging stations, the most per capita of any California city. The city requires new charging stations in all new commercial construction. Manhattan Village’s new parking structure will have 10 EV charging stations.

“That’s why we chose Manhattan Beach,” Fisker said. “And for the restaurants.”

Manhattan Beach is also a relatively inexpensive city for large businesses because it is one of the few California cities that caps business license fees, according to city finance director Steve Charelian.   The maximum business license is $9,700 annually. A bigger benefit, he said, may be sales tax and property tax revenue from local spending and local home purchases by Fisker’s 250 employees. Online sales tax revenue from Fisker car sales will be distributed to cities county wide, according to a formula. But were Fisker to offer sales at its Manhattan Beach location, the city would receive approximately 1 percent of the city’s 9.5 percent sales tax.

Fisker said he is not concerned with the State of California’s high taxes.

“To have the world we want, we have to pay for it,” he said.

“Plus, this is where the 250 people we want to hire want to live. I’d rather be here than in the desert.” ER

 

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