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Fisker Automotive’s founder and chairman has resigned from the cash-strapped “green car” startup, saying he was at odds with the company’s executives over business strategy.
Henrik Fisker's abrupt exit comes at a sensitive time for the company, which has not produced a car since July 2102 and is looking for a financial backer to buy a stake and help build its second model, the Atlantic plug-in hybrid.
Fisker announced his departure in an email that said: “The main reasons for his resignation are several major disagreements that Henrik Fisker has with the Fisker Automotive executive management on the business strategy.”
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 cars.
NO CHANGE IN PARTNER STRATEGY
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.
The company said his absence 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,” it said. “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 (R950 000).
The delay in bringing the Karma to market prompted the US department of energy to bar the company from drawing down the rest of its $529 million (R4.88 billion) 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.
AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan said: “Henrik Fisker started something with a great idea but it just hasn't been able to get to that next level.
“They've been sitting idle long enough - if there's any hope of saving the company, now is the time to step down and let the experts revive it.”
EXIT COULD HAVE 'DIRE' EFECT
But Kelley Blue Book analyst Jack Nerad said Fisker's departure could have ‘dire’ consequences for 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 said 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”.
“This guy is not a businessman.”
In early 2012, Fisker stepped down as chief executive, handing that role to former Chrysler boss Tom LaSorda. LaSorda left in August, handing the reins to Posawatz, a former General Motors engineer.
The former BMW and Aston Martin designer has been praised for the design 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.
One said: “This is a guy who basically drew cars for a living - and that's a hell of a lot different.” - Reuters