Henrik Fisker quits Fisker Automotive in dispute with management
Henrik Fisker: "Several major disagreements" with management.
Henrik Fisker, the former BMW designer who co-founded Fisker Automotive, has resigned from the plug-in hybrid car maker, citing discord with company executives.
Fisker, who has been executive chairman for the past 13 months, wrote in an e-mail that the main reasons for his departure were "several major disagreements" with "Fisker Automotive executive management on the business strategy."
The company hasn't produced a car since last summer and is in desperate need of capital to launch a new model. Fisker Automotive reportedly has been talking to Chinese investors.
Fisker, 49, confirmed his resignation in a phone interview today.
"I'm proud of having brought the first luxury plug-in hybrid to market under my leadership," Fisker said in an email interview later Wednesday with Automotive News. "Despite the difficulties, and setbacks, more than many big car companies have to face, Fisker Automotive tackled the issues head on and managed to sell more than 2,000 cars to date."
While seeming disappointed that his resignation was necessary, he still is proud of the company, describing as "amazing [how] the small Fisker Automotive team has performed from inception to the full-scale commercialization of the Fisker Karma."
"I have driven many luxury cars on a day-to-day basis. I still find the Fisker Karma the best day-to-day car I have ever had," Fisker said.
The move marks the end of his dream of launching his own car company, which the acclaimed Danish designer once described as "running over fire while people are whipping you."
Fisker was a top design executive for BMW, Ford Motor Co. and Aston Martin before starting Fisker Automotive in 2007.
Tony Posawatz, who became president and CEO of the company in August, said this morning that he had just been made aware of the resignation. Posawatz previously was vehicle line director for the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.
Asked how the company was faring, Posawatz said, "We're in the midst of some serious negotiating."
News reports last month said that a Chinese holding group, Zhejiang Geely, which owns Volvo, leads the bidding to take over Fisker Automotive.
In a statement posted this afternoon, the company said:
"While Henrik has resigned from the company his presence and influence is still very much a part of Fisker Automotive... Many other companies have seen their founders depart and in many cases return to influence or even lead their company in the future. The growth process of an entrepreneur and their projects are often enhanced from these changes.
"Right now Fisker Automotive has plenty going on and our team is solidly focused on operations at Fisker Automotive."
Fisker Automotive has been seeking capital to launch its second vehicle, the Atlantic, after the U.S. Department of Energy froze most of a $529 million U.S. Advanced Vehicle Technology Loan when Fisker Automotive fell short of production goals.
Henrik Fisker styled the company's first vehicle, the Karma, which it launched in late 2011. The car had a base price of $102,000. In December, the company told The New York Times that it sold about 1,800 units before production was suspended last summer. It had been built in Finland by contract manufacturer Valmet Automotive.
Fisker has been seeking to develop the Atlantic, a sedan that it planned to build in a former General Motors plant in Wilmington, Del. The Atlantic was expected to sell for about $55,000.
But the fledgling company ran into a series of problems. In May 2011, the federal loan money stopped flowing, shutting off a key source of capital -- and also making Fisker a target of Republican rhetoric during the 2012 election season.
Henrik Fisker relinquished the CEO role in February 2012, when the company hired former Chrysler Corp. CEO Tom LaSorda to take that position. LaSorda left in August when Posawatz was hired.
Fisker remained executive chairman. In that role, Fisker's jobs included building the brand in global markets and the design of future Fisker models.
In March 2012, a Karma battery pack shut down while it was being tested by Consumer Reports. The company said it had reacted properly after detecting a fault, but had to replace batteries in existing vehicles.
Fisker Automotive raised $100 million in private equity investment in September, but suffered another setback then when Consumer Reports criticized the Karma and refused to recommend it. Then in October, the Karma battery supplier A123 Systems entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy, emerging in January with a new owner, Chinese supplier Wanxiang Group Co.
Resume: BMW, Aston
The gritty business of launching a startup was a sharp contrast to Henrik Fisker's earlier career. He had been CEO of BMW's global design house in California, DesignworksUSA -- where he produced the BMW Z07 retro-roadster concept and then the production-version Z8, which went on to star in the James Bond movie, The World is Not Enough.
Mark Rechtin contributed to this report
Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
Ford hired Fisker away to London to become design chief and a board member of its Aston Martin brand. There, he drew the Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage, then ran Ford's Ingeni "creativity center." In 2003 Fisker found himself back in California as director of Ford's Global Advanced Design Studio in Irvine.
Fisker and his longtime friend and engineering colleague, Bernhard Koehler, founded a luxury coachbuilder in 2005 that morphed into Fisker Automotive.
Although the Karma design won praise, in a January 2012 interview, Henrik Fisker admitted that the company needed a higher-volume model: "You are not a car company until you are making revenue-generating cars, and you are making $2 million a day."
FULL FISKER AUTOMOTIVE STATEMENT:
While Henrik has resigned from the company his presence and influence is still very much a part of Fisker Automotive.
The design of the Fisker Karma is a timeless one. As is the design of Surf, the Sunset, The Atlantic and there are others ... all speak with a language that is unique to Fisker Automotive. Henrik Fisker pioneered these designs and they continue to live within the walls of Fisker Automotive.
Many other companies have seen their founders depart and in many cases return to influence or even lead their company in the future. The growth process of an entrepreneur and their projects are often enhanced from these changes.
Right now Fisker Automotive has plenty going on and our team is solidly focused on operations at Fisker Automotive.
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