According to an article in my newspaper today, written by Dana Hull of Mercurynews.com, electric car start-up, Fisker Automotive, announced Tuesday that they had replaced company founder and CEO Henrik Fisker, with Tom LaSorda, a “veteran of Chrysler and General Motors”. Fisker will become “Executive Chairman” of the board of the company.
Fisker, based in Anaheim, CA, makes the $102,000 plug-in hybrid Karma and hopes to manufacture a sedan known as the Nina, at a former GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware. The executive shake-up comes as Fisker faces several formidable challenges and growing competition from various major automotive manufacturers in the EV and plug-in hybrid market. In recent months, Fisker has had problems with production delays, a voluntary battery pack recall, software glitches, troubles getting its Delaware plant running and a freeze in much of its $529 million Energy Department loan guarantee.
So far Fisker Automotive has raised more than $860 million in private equity financing since 2007, but more is needed. Fisker was awarded the $529 million loan guarantee by the DOE, $169 million of which was to develop the Karma. But $359 million of the guarantee was to support the production of the Nina and to resurrect the closed GM plant. So far Fisker has drawn down $190 million of the grant and they are trying to revise their business plan in an effort to get the rest of the money.
Last summer, Fisker said that it planned an initial production volume of 15,000 Karmas in 2012, but has since scaled down its plans to 10,000 cars. The article mentions that Al Gore has bought one of their cars, as has the CEO of Coulomb Technologies, Pat Romano.
My comment is that it sure seems typical that the founder of a start-up gets replaced by a professional CEO when production of the product commences and then finds himself as Chairman of the company board. Shortly after that, he will probably leave the company to try to invent and develop a new product. It has happened before.