Fisker steps away from 'green car' company

Henrik Fisker abruptly resigned from Fisker Automotive Inc. on Wednesday. The struggling business has not produced a vehicle since last summer. It is currently looking for funding and partnerships and it's unclear how Fisker's departure will affect the company's future. 

REUTERS/Allison Joyce/Files
Fisker Co-Founder and Executive Chairman Henrik Fisker speaks ahead of the 2012 International Auto Show in New York in this file photo. Fisker resigned from the cash-strapped "green car" startup on Wednesday, saying he was at odds with the automaker's top executives over business strategy.

The founder and executive chairman of Fisker Automotive Inc resigned from the cash-strapped "green car" startup on Wednesday, saying he was at odds with the automaker's top executives over business strategy.

Henrik Fisker's abrupt exit comes at a sensitive time for the company, which has not produced a car since last July and is looking for a financial backer to buy a stake and help build its second model, the Atlantic plug-in hybrid.

"The main reasons for his resignation are several major disagreements that Henrik Fisker has with the Fisker Automotive executive management on the business strategy," according to an email from Henrik Fisker announcing his departure.

He declined to describe the nature of the disagreements that prompted him to leave the company, which he founded with Barny Koehler in 2007 shortly before a deep recession in the United States undercut consumer demand for vehicles.

It is unclear how the departure of the Danish-born Fisker, 49, will affect the company's search for a partner. The company is weighing bids from two Chinese automakers: Geely, the owner of Sweden's Volvo, and state-owned Dongfeng Motor Group Co , sources have said.

In a statement, Fisker Automotive said the departure would not prompt a change in the company's strategy.

"The company has a strong and experienced management team and its strategy has not changed," the company said in a statement. "Mr. Fisker's departure is not expected to impact the company's pursuit of strategic partnerships and financing."

Finding a partner would lend the company credibility after the rocky and delayed introduction of its flagship plug-in hybrid sports car, the Karma, which starts at $103,000.

The delay in bringing the Karma to market prompted the U.S. Department of Energy to bar the company from drawing down the rest of its $529 million federal loan.

The resulting cash crunch made it tough for the company to meet what Chief Executive Tony Posawatz described as an "overly ambitious and aggressive" business plan.

"He started something with a great idea but it just hasn't been able to get to that next level," AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan said, of Henrik Fisker.

"They've been sitting idle long enough," Sullivan added. "If there's any hope of wanting to save the company, now is the time to step down and let the experts revive the company."

Exit could have 'dire' effect 

But Kelley Blue Book analyst Jack Nerad said Fisker's departure may have "dire" consequences to a possible deal with a strategic investor. He added that the move raises questions about the company's future product line.

"There have been so many people passing through the executive suite there that it's hard to imagine that there's been much continuity in terms of product development," he said.

Fisker's exit is the most high-profile departure from the automaker, which has seen considerable turnover among its top ranks for more than a year.

He told Reuters in a brief telephone interview that leaving was a "very tough" decision. When asked if he would be an adviser to the automaker, Fisker said, "there have been no discussions at this point."

In early 2012, Fisker stepped down as chief executive, giving that role to former Chrysler Group LLC CEO Tom LaSorda. LaSorda left in August, handing the reins to Posawatz, a former General Motors Co engineer.

The former BMW and Aston Martin designer has been hailed for the look of the company's flagship Karma, a plug-in hybrid that counts pop singer Justin Bieber and actor Leonardo DiCaprio as owners.

But he also faced criticism for what some industry experts perceived as a lack of experience beyond designing vehicles, AutoPacific's Sullivan and other analysts said.

"This guy is not a businessman," Joseph Phillippi, principal of AutoTrends Consulting, said. "This is a guy who basically drew cars for a living. And that's a hell of a lot different."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.