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picture-119Fisker Automotive, prime Tesla Motors competitor and maker of the luxury plug-in hybrid vehicle known as the Karma, has announced plans to sell 15,000 cars and apply for government funds in order to hit profitability by 2011. The Southern California company plans to launch production later this year.

In order to turn a profit in such a short time frame, Fisker says it will need to be selling at least 15,000 cars — each with a price tag of $87,900 — by 2011. In order to break even, the company needs to sell 5,000 cars. It’s already on its way, with 1,400 pre-orders, but this is still a far cry from its target.

Reaching profitability will be vital to the company’s plans to release a more affordable sedan by 2012. In this pursuit, it’s even more similar to Tesla. Both companies will have gotten their start selling pricey luxury vehicles (the Karma versus the Roadster), only to ramp up production on more practical, family-oriented vehicles. Fisker plans to charge $39,000 for its model, which will be cheaper than Tesla’s $47,500 Model S. Once the company enters production on this hybrid vehicle, it will become its bread and butter. It anticipates turning out 100,000 models of the sedan every year.

But none of this will be possible without government backing. Fisker has applied to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program, but has yet to hear back. So far, that money has been allocated to large automotive companies like Ford, GM and Nissan. Tesla has been the only major exception, receiving $465 million in government loans for a Model S assembly plant. The DOE has also been favoring companies that are converting old assembly plants for next-generation vehicles. Fisker is currently looking for one, but hasn’t had any luck, which may count against it.

In the meantime, the company has raised a generous amount of venture funding (though not enough for capital-intensive assembly facilities). To date, it has brought in more that $150 million from Qatar Investment Authority, Palo Alto Investors, Eco-Drive Capital Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

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