In attempt to stabilize itself, next generation automaker Fisker Automotive has removed Henrik Fisker as CEO and replaced him with Tom LaSorda, the former CEO of Chrysler Group.
Fisker Automotive, which hoped to lead a renaissance in the American auto industry when it was launched in 2007, has run into a slew of problems over the past several months.
The largest of its obstacles comes in the form of a frozen $529 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy. The company has received $193 million of this loan, but none since May. The DOE has refused to release any more money as a result of Fisker failing to meet required milestones.
The frozen capital has forced the company to stop work at its Delaware manufacturing facility, where it plans to make its second vehicle, the Nina, a $50,000 plug-in hybrid electric sedan. This led to 26 employees at the plant being laid off, and another 45 engineers at the company's Anaheim headquarters also receiving their walking papers.
Given the increased scrutiny the Obama administration is facing regarding its cleantech loans, accessing the remainder of the federal funds could be difficult for Fisker.
Theodore O'Neill, an analyst with Wunderlich Securities told the Boston Globe last week that "everyone I've talked to is pretty certain the DOE loan is not coming." O'Neill cited the administration being "boxed in" by troubled loans as the major reason the loan could be withheld indefinitely.
Failing to meet its end of the bargain with the federal government is not the only issue Fisker has dealt with. The company has also had problems getting its flagship vehicle, the Karma, out of the starting gate. Dealing with production issues as well as two recalls, the company has only manufactured 1,500 Karmas, 300 of which have been delivered to customers.
A legendary automobile designer, Henrik Fisker had never been a CEO when he co-founded Fisker Automotive in 2007. Under his watch the company achieved several important milestones including fundraising over $860 million in private investment. However, turning over the reigns to a seasoned automobile executive could be the best move he's made for his fledgling company.
Henrik Fisker will now become the Executive Chairman of the company, and will focus on building the company's brand internationally, as well developing the style and design of future Fisker vehicles.
In assuming his role, LaSorda said the future strategy of the company will be focused on establishing strong partnerships and alliances as Fisker grows as a brand. Within this strategy will surely be locating new sources of funding.
Last week, Henrik Fisker said he did not want his company to be reliant on government funding: "We are in discussions for alternative financing. We don't want our future 100% reliant on DOE funding. It's been great to have. We just want to be sure we have capital with DOE." In order to move its Delaware plant and the Nina into production, alternative financing will be necessary.
In a conference call with reporters, LaSorda said, "I wouldn't have taken the job if I didn't feel the future was bright." LaSorda highlighted that a sign of his confidence in Fisker can be found in his own personal investment in the privately held company.
Image credit: Fisker Automotive
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