Fisker Automotive will acquire General Motors Corp.’s Wilmington Assembly plant in Delaware, and plans to begin producing hybrid vehicles there in late 2012. A letter of intent has been signed with Motors Liquidation Co. (the successor to GM) to purchase the Wilmington location for $18 million after a routine four-month evaluation period.

Privately held Fisker Automotive was established in 2007 by two auto designers to advance the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology of Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide Inc. CEO Henrik Fisker had been design director for Aston Martin and president and CEO of BMW's DesignworksUSA; COO Bernhard Koehler led Ford's Global Advanced Design Studio and created concept cars for Aston Martin, MINI and BMW.

Their first car, the Fisker Karma, will go on sale in the U.S. and Europe next summer, touted as “the world's first production plug-in hybrid.”

Fisker Automotive plans to invest up to $175 million to refurbish and retool the Wilmington plant over the next three years. It will access a recent $528-million loan from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to carry out the revamp. The loan is part of the $25-billion federal Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program.

It says the plant offers the size, capacity, painting facilities, shipping access, and available workers it will need for Project NINA. That’s the program to develop and build Fisker’s “affordable, family-oriented” plug-in hybrid sedan. After applying federal tax credits, the new vehicles would cost about $39,900, according to the company.

"This is a major step toward establishing America as a leader of advanced vehicle technology," stated CEO Henrik Fisker. "Wilmington is perfect for high-quality, low-volume production and will soon be the proud builder of world-class, fuel-efficient Fisker plug-in hybrids."

Project NINA would create or support 2,000 factory jobs and over 3,000 vendor and supplier jobs by 2014, according to Fisker Automotive. Full capacity at Wilmington would be 100,000 vehicles per year, over half of which would be exported.