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The tea leaves are getting somewhat clearer over at Fisker Automotive with a new report saying the struggling automaker is furloughing its US workers this week, a month before a payment on the company's $529-million Department of Energy loan is due. Fisker never got the full amount, taking only about $193 million before the funds were frozen.

In a statement to Reuters, Fisker says not to worry: "This [furlough] is a common practice, particularly in the automotive industry, to manage costs and operations based on current activity levels and commercial requirements." Fisker has 200 workers in the US.

Fisker has not made any of its Karma plug-in hybrids since July and, two weeks ago, namesake Henrik Fisker left the company he co-founded. The chance that a Chinese company will come in and rescue the California-based automaker also appears to be dimming. Early last year, Fisker laid off a small number of workers because of difficulty in getting production of the Atlantic model going.

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