"At that time, there was no suppliers that believed a new car company could be founded and actually be successful because it hadn't been done for so many years — and the few that tried it had failed," Fisker told Automotive News. "Secondly, there was no suppliers who knew pretty much anything about the electrification of the automobile."
This skepticism wasn't limited to Fisker. At that time, Tesla was working to get its first car, the Roadster, off the ground.
"We faced a really, really questioning world," Peter Rawlinson, Tesla's former chief engineer, told Automotive News. "We faced suppliers who were just not willing to quote the components because they fundamentally did not believe it was possible for a new entry to exist as a car company at all, let alone as an EV creator."
Today, Fisker and Rawlinson are part of new ventures. After Fisker Automotive filed for bankruptcy in 2013, its founder has regrouped with Fisker Inc., a Newport Beach, Calif., outfit gearing up to release the EMotion electric sedan by the end of this decade.
Rawlinson, who left Tesla in 2012, is chief technology officer at Lucid Motors in Newark, Calif., not far from the Tesla factory in Fremont. Lucid hopes to start production of an electric sedan called the Air in 2019.
But as these two green-car acolytes work toward bringing their respective brands' first vehicles to market, the backdrop against which they do so is entirely different from a decade ago.The inevitability of electrification across the industry has gotten clearer — and closer. Key players from legacy automakers, including Volkswagen, Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Renault-Nissan, are pouring billions of dollars into developing electric vehicles.
Former hydrogen bulls Toyota Motor and Hyundai are committing major resources to EVs, as are smaller outfits such as Volvo, backed by China's Geely, and Jaguar Land Rover, backed by India's Tata. For many brands, it's no longer a question of whether their lineups will be electrified, but when and in what form.
That changes things for today's EV startups — not just Lucid and Fisker but also Nio, Faraday Future, Bollinger Motors, Detroit Electric and SF Motors. Fighting to create a segment of the automotive industry a decade ago was much different from taking on legacy automakers for a piece of that burgeoning market today.
But the entrepreneurs leading those upstarts remain confident they can muscle their way into voids that established companies are ignoring or not adequately addressing.