Fisker Automotive Co-Founder Resigns as Chairman

Henrik Fisker, the auto designer who co-founded luxury plug-in hybrid manufacturer Fisker Automotive Inc., said he resigned over disagreements with the company’s other executives.

Fisker’s resignation from the Anaheim, California-based company as executive chairman was effective yesterday, he said in an e-mail. Fisker, 49, confirmed his exit in a telephone interview. The company, seeking investors to fund operations, doesn’t expect the departure to affect that search, according to an e-mailed statement from the automaker.

Henrik Fisker in his e-mail said he’s leaving because of “several major disagreements” with the carmaker’s executive management on its business strategy. He didn’t elaborate.

Fisker Automotive is weighing multiple bids from companies willing to help it stay in business, including a $350 million offer from Dongfeng Motor Corp. that would give the Chinese carmaker majority control, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News last month.

The maker of $103,000 Karma sedans has said it’s seeking additional investment and potential partners to sustain and expand sales of the Karma and the Atlantic, a lower priced plug-in hybrid the company had wanted to build at a renovated factory in Delaware.

Plans Unchanged

“The company has a strong and experienced management team, and its strategy has not changed,” the automaker said in its statement yesterday. “Mr. Fisker’s departure is not expected to impact the company’s pursuit of strategic partnerships and financing to support Fisker Automotive’s continued progress as a pioneer of low-emission hybrid electric powertrain technology.”

Work on the Delaware plant stopped a year ago, after Fisker Automotive said access to a low-interest federal loan it received for the plant project was blocked for failing to meet a timetable agreed to with the Energy Department for delivery and sales of the Karma. That vehicle is built under contract by Valmet Automotive Oy in Finland, and goes as far as 40 miles (64 kilometers) on electricity before a gasoline engine kicks in.

The resignation “certainly won’t do the company any favors,” said Ed Kim, an auto industry analyst for AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin, California. “From a public perspective, it would be taken as a sign of further unrest and some problems if the founder leaves.”

Henrik Fisker, who had designed high-end sports cars for Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW and Aston Martin, co-founded Fisker Automotive in 2007 with Bernhard Koehler, who remains at the company.

New Leaders

Henrik Fisker yielded the chief executive officer post in February 2012 to Tom LaSorda, a past president of the predecessor of Chrysler Group LLC. Tony Posawatz, a former General Motors Co. executive, took over as CEO in August.

The company was awarded a $529 million Energy Department loan in 2009 to develop and build its vehicles. Bill Gibbons, an Energy Department spokesman, yesterday declined to comment about Henrik Fisker’s resignation.

Karma production halted last year following the bankruptcy of battery supplier A123 Systems Inc., maker of the lithium-ion cells used in the Fisker Automotive model. Henrik Fisker said last month at the Chicago Auto Show that production of Karmas would resume “fairly soon,” without elaborating.

The company also said in August it would recall the Karma to fix a flawed cooling fan linked to a California fire.

“Those problems would be tough if you were General Motors, let alone if you are a small company with much more limited funds,” said Alan Baum, principal of Baum & Associates, a consulting firm in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Henrik Fisker “brought the design expertise personally.”

Wanxiang Group Co. in January won approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. to buy most of A123’s assets. Wanxiang in January said it wants to support Fisker, without elaborating.