GRAZ, Austria — As I often say: Starting a car company is really hard — that's why basically only one outside of China has been successfully launched and sustained in the last half-century.
One of those that tried and failed was Fisker Automotive, which offered a luxury plug-in hybrid but didn't last long, largely because of supply chain woes and a lack of cash.
Henrik Fisker's second shot at an eponymous automaker, Fisker Inc., is also coming out at a time of great economic turbulence. But it's also a very different company: electric vehicles, not PHEVs; aiming for mass-market, not luxury, appeal; defining the brand with ecological sustainability from the start.
And this time, he has his wife with him in the C-suite.
Geeta Gupta Fisker — who has a Ph.D. in biotech and organic chemistry — is a force in the young company, which is not a surprise given that she is the CFO and COO. But more important is how her talents complement her husband's. While he comes from the artistic side of the industry — he's the company's master designer as well as CEO — she has the knack for the industrial nuts and bolts of getting all the nuts and bolts (and batteries) in the right place at a reasonable price.
While he's spent his career in the auto industry, best known as a designer for Aston Martin and BMW, she is new to it. Well, not exactly new: Her father, she told me, had an aftermarket auto parts business in India, so she kind of grew up around it. She's spent most of her work years in investing with Lloyds Banking Group and later with family offices — companies that build private wealth for efficient transfer across generations. That's where she honed the deal-making skills that are so often called upon now with bankers, battery makers, other suppliers.
While purchasing is one of her core areas, Geeta Fisker told me that she's careful not to micromanage negotiations because she doesn't want to undermine the good team she's put together.