In a brief press announcement today, Fisker Automotive co-founder Henrik Fisker turned over his role as Fisker Automotive’s CEO to Fisker Vice Chairman, and former Chrysler CEO, Tom LaSorda.
Fisker said he will assume the role of executive chairman as he turns his attention to creating global brand awareness for the maker of the extended-range electric Karma variants and pending trio of Nina platform vehicles to be based on similar drivetrain technology.
Citing 32 years in the auto business – 23 years at GM, nine at Chrysler – LaSorda said Fisker “did not have to twist my arm” to leave Michigan for Southern California, initially as a vice chairman, and now as its chief executive officer.
LaSorda said he would not have taken the post-retirement job if he did not see a great future founded on a solid business model and management team, impressive product line and pent up consumer demand.
Despite adverse press reports that have swirled around the company, Henrik Fisker noted that Fisker is the first American start-up automaker to receive U.S. Department of Energy funds and bring forth a product to market.
This may be so, but about two-thirds of the $529 million in DOE money has now been frozen because Fisker missed certain deadlines upon which the low interest loans were contingent.
However, contrary to insinuation from various reports, Fisker is not accused of wrong doing with regards to building its Karma away from American soil.
The Karma and its variants to come are built under subcontract at the highly regarded Valmet plant in Finland. Fisker has said this was always fully disclosed to the federal government, was never a deal breaker, and the company had to offshore because it had no factory of its own yet. Further, early attempts to subcontract space to build the Karma from domestic automakers all fell through, Fisker has told us.
As it seeks to prove itself, next up are to be American-built cars as the California-based automaker aspires to grow into a full fledged American OEM with a global impact. These are to be Delaware-manufactured extended-range electric Project Nina cars for the 2013 model year.
No photos of them have been known to have been published, but LaSorda said the $40-50,000-plus cars – built in a former GM plant and that could steal sales from the Chevy Volt – will not disappoint.
“These look drop dead gorgeous,” LaSorda said of the Nina line.
With the re-organization, Fisker said also that Chairman of the Board, Ray Lane will assume a lead director role.
“Ray has been an invaluable guide and help to us as we have grown this company and its financial strength over the past few years,” said Henrik Fisker. “For a company to raise over $860 million of private equity is a remarkable achievement and Ray’s support and guidance has been a key factor in that.”
Aside from the North American market, Fisker has already gained a foothold in Europe. Henrik Fisker said he now has his sites set on growing the business in the Middle East and China, and stepping away from responsibilities as CEO will allow him to better prepare the way for the company with his name on it.
In turning over the helm to the former Detroit executive, Fisker said he has great confidence, and LaSorda also said he has solid enthusiasm for the growth ahead.
“Keep watching us,” LaSorda said to the media, “we’ve got more product to come.”