Henrik Fisker and the seeming impending buyout of Fisker Automotive

After about six years of leading Fisker Automotive, Henrik Fisker has resigned amid financial problems and an impending sale of the company to Chinese automakers.  What leads a company founder to leave his company while it is under fire?  We don’t know for sure, but it is clear that the last year or so at the top of Fisker cannot have been anything other than tough.

Fisker Atlantic

Reuters is reporting the resignation came because of several major disagreements between Henrik Fisker and the management team over the strategic direction.   A statement attributed to Fisker reads “The main reasons for his resignation are several major disagreements that Henrik Fisker has with the Fisker Automotive executive management on the business strategy.”

The resignation comes after over a year of tumultuous problems at not just Fisker Automotive but A123 Systems, the battery manufacturer who supplied battery packs to Fisker.

I wrote up a timeline in Fisker’s horrible year leading to Henrik Fisker’s resignation – so here’s the TL;DR summary

  • Fisker Automotive was very late getting the Karma into production .. which began in late 2011
  • It was so late that the company missed several milestones required under the Dept. of Energy ATVM loan to Fisker Automotive
  • In Feb 2012 the Dept. of Energy froze loans to Fisker — preventing the company from finishing work on the factory in Delaware, and preventing the company from bringing the Atlantic to production
  • Concurrent with freezing the loans, Fisker laid off the workers refurbishing the Delaware factory
  • As a result, Fisker’s management went on a spree of raising private investments

In parallel with this A123 Systems had an unfolding disaster on its hands

  • In December 2011 Fisker’s QA team found manufacturing flaws in A123-supplied battery packs, forcing a recall to replace the battery packs
  • A123’s QA later found manufacturing defects in cells manufactured by one machine in one of their battery factories
  • A123 had to pay over $55 million in costs related to recalls
  • That blew a hole in A123’s financial status
  • A123 declared bankruptcy in October 2012, and by Jan 2013 had finalized a sale of the company to Wanxiang America, the American arm of Chinese autoparts maker Wanxiang Group

As a result of A123’s bankruptcy, Fisker had to freeze production of the Fisker Karma.  That freeze is thought to now have been 8-9 months long, meaning the company hasn’t had any significant revenue in a very long time.  Further, over 300 Karma’s were destroyed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, when flood waters inundated a storage yard.  That by itself meant $30 million in revenue lost.

More recently news has been circulating that Fisker’s management is entertaining buyout bids from several companies.

We can imagine that Henrik Fisker might have wanted to save the company in a different way than by selling out to the Chinese.  We can’t blame him.  At the same time the story of woe at Fisker Automotive … well .. I’ll just say I’m glad to not be working for that company.

At the same time there is an alarming amount of action where Chinese corporations are buying up American green technology companies for pennies on the dollar.

Sources:

Fisker Automotive founder quits over “major disagreements”

Management fight pushes Henrik Fisker from car company he founded

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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