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Fisker Facing Federal Lawsuit; Other Legal Action Could Follow

Bankruptcy the likely option, say sources.

by on Apr.08, 2013

Barring some last-minute rescue, don't expect to ever see the Fisker Atlantic make production.

If it were possible for things to get worse, well, it just might for fast-failing Fisker Automotive which, just last Friday, laid off three quarters of its employees, including its marketing, engineering and communications teams.

That move has triggered a federal lawsuit alleging the company failed to provide the required advance notice before releasing 160 of its 210 employees – who were also advised they would receive no severance pay.

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Meanwhile, several highly placed sources echoed their concerns that a bankruptcy filing is extremely “likely,” one executive who has had close scrutiny of Fisker’s books telling TheDetroitBureau.com, “I don’t see how they can avoid it.”

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Fisker Responds to 2nd Fire with 2nd Recall

Blames faulty fan, not battery, for blaze.

by on Aug.20, 2012

A Fisker Karma damaged by a fire in Northern California. Photo courtesy Jalopnik.com.

Fisker Automotive has ordered a recall of its Karma plug-in hybrid – the second since it was launched earlier this year – in the wake of a fire that destroyed one of the vehicles in a Northern California parking lot.

The maker blames a sealed fan unit for the blaze, rather than the lithium-ion battery pack.  But the incident is nonetheless a serious setback for the struggling start-up which earlier this year had a federal low-interest loan frozen, forcing it to seek out private capital to help complete the development of its second – and arguably even more critical product line.

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“We are committed to responding swiftly and decisively to events such as this to ensure total customer satisfaction,” says Henrik Fisker, founder and chairman of the California-based automaker. “This incident resulted from a single, faulty component, not our unique EVer powertrain or the engineering of the Karma.   As this situation demonstrates, Fisker Automotive is dedicated to doing whatever is necessary to address safety and quality concerns.”

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Former Chevy Volt Chief Named New Fisker CEO

Tony Posawatz aims to take struggling start-up to “next level.”

by on Aug.14, 2012

Tony Posawatz led development efforts for the Chevrolet Volt.

The man who helped turn a radical idea into the Chevrolet Volt will become the new chief executive of Fisker Automotive, the struggling California start-up hoping to make a go out of selling its own plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Tony Posawatz’s move to Fisker Automotive comes barely a month after he retired as chief of General Motors’ electric vehicle program.  He replaces Tom LaSorda, the one-time Chrysler chief executive, who had spent less than a year as Fisker’s CEO.

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The 52-year-old Posawatz brings to Fisker plenty of know-how and a solid reputation after 25 years with GM. But he lands at a company that is struggling to come up with the cash it needs to launch its second and perhaps most critical product line, the Atlantic. Complicating matters, Fisker is facing mounting concerns after a second of its original Karma models unexpectedly caught fire last week.

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Fisker Offers Official Look at New Atlantic Plug-In

But details, including production timing, remain elusive.

by on Apr.04, 2012

The first official pic of the Fisker Atlantic plug-in hybrid.

Henrik Fisker, founder of the eponymous Fisker Automotive, was clearly searching for something new to reveal during an evening news conference the night before the formal opening of the 2012 New York Auto Show.  The problem is that much of what he had hoped to say – and then some – leaked out in the days leading up to the event.

The most important detail confirmed by the Danish designer-cum-automaker was that the second Fisker product line will be dubbed the Atlantic if it ever gets into production.  Make that “when” it gets to production, Fisker asserted, insisting that the California start-up’s problems locking down a Department of Energy loan it thought it already had will not stop its ambitious plans.

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Fisker belatedly reached market with the bigger and decidedly more expensive Karma earlier this year.  But problems bringing it to showrooms led the DoE to withdraw the loan after the company had only been able to draw down about 35% of it.  While new Chief Executive Officer Tom LaSorda is continuing discussions with the government, he told TheDetroitBureau.com that Fisker Automotive is moving ahead with alternative plans to raise money privately to replace the DoE funds.

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Former Chrysler Chief LaSorda Now Fisker CEO

“They didn’t have to twist my arm.”

by on Feb.28, 2012

Former Chrysler Chief LaSorda will now serve as CEO at Fisker Automotive.

Former Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda is back in the saddle, albeit one with a relatively silent source of power, as the new chief executive of battery-car start-up Fisker Automotive.

LaSorda, who had been serving as advisor and vice chairman of the California-based company will step into day-to-day management replacing founder Henrik Fisker as CEO.  The Danish-born Fisker will continue to serve as executive chairman and as the company’s design chief.

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The 57-year-old LaSorda will have plenty of challenges ahead of him.  Fisker Automotive is months behind with the launch of its first product, the plug-in Karma sports car, and it is struggling to renegotiate $528 million in federal loans needed to complete the development and production launch of the maker’s next product, a more mainstream plug-in model codenamed Project Nina.

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Former Chrysler CEO LaSorda Joins Fisker

Joined by long-time Ford marketing exec Richard Beattie.

by on Dec.15, 2011

Tom LaSorda, (right), with former Chrysler boss Bob Nardelli, at a United Way event.

While there are plenty of skeptics still waiting for start-up Fisker Automotive to prove it has staying power the California-based plug-in hybrid manufacturer is winning over some well-known names like former Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda.

The Canadian-born executive, who left Chrysler before its 2009 bankruptcy, will join Fisker as the maker’s new vice chairman and chairman of its Strategy Council. He will be joined by Richard Beattie, a long-time Ford senior executive who will now become Fisker’s new Chief Commercial Officer, overseeing marketing sales and customer service.

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The fledgling automaker recently launched three versions of its plug-in hybrid sports coupe, including the Fisker Karma.  The maker this week announced that it is raising the price of the sleek battery vehicle to $102,000, nearly 30% more than it originally projected.  The high-end EcoChic version, meanwhile, will jump to $116,000.

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Former Chrysler Boss LaSorda Offers $100 Mil to Budding Entrepreneurs

Goal to “commercialize anything big and new.”

by on May.24, 2011

Former Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda wants to "commercialize anything big and new" with venture capital fund Stage 2 Innovations.

Unceremoniously ousted by the carmaker’s former owners, one-time Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda has resurfaced – with a pot of gold he intends to make available to entrepreneurs with big ideas.

LaSorda has teamed up with an anonymous investor, and will work with the quasi-public Detroit-based Automation Alley to distribute $100 million in cash that, the long-time exec says will be used to “commercialize anything big and new.”

Dubbed Stage 2 Innovations LLC, the fund will be aimed at entrepreneurs who have already come up with their big ideas and are now ready to commercialize innovative technologies.  Those companies that qualify are expected to start generating annual revenues of anywhere from $1 million to $50 million, and employ anywhere from 10 to 100 employees.

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Not to be confused with baseball’s Tommy LaSorda, the Canadian-born Thomas W. LaSorda became Chrysler CEO on January 1, 2006.  But in August 2007, after the break-up of DaimlerChrysler AG, LaSorda was bumped to the number two slot by the U.S. maker’s new owners, Cerberus Capital Management.  Though Fiat reportedly asked LaSorda to stay on, he decided to retire when the maker filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

He has remained largely out of the spotlight since then, but the son of a Canadian union official now teams up with an anonymous but “successful, experienced investor” to launch Stage 2, which will turn to Automation Alley to help pick promising venture partners.

“Tom LaSorda and his team represent a wealth of knowledge and business savvy that, when combined with such incredible financial resources, will give second-stage companies the entrepreneurial support needed to elevate business growth in Michigan,” said Ken Rogers, Automation Alley’s Executive Director.

The sort of companies that the new fund hopes to kick-start are responsible for more than a third of all new Michigan jobs, according to various studies.  But Stage 2 intends to push beyond the confines of the Motor City.  It will initially reach out across North America and eventually try to line up deals worldwide.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Approves Chrysler’s First Day Motions in Federal Court

So far things are progressing smoothly, confounding critics.

by on May.04, 2009

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Tom LaSorda, Vice Chairman and President, left, announced his immediate retirement on the first day of the bankruptcy court proceedings.

Last Friday Judge Arthur Gonzalez in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York City immediately approved a series of court filings from Chrysler LLC known as “first-day motions.” The orders issued by the court allow Chrysler to continue to operate its business during the reorganization proceedings. The quick action was expected, since the court is used to dealing with large, albeit less publicized, bankruptcies.

The Court granted approval for the company’s request to continue payment of wages and health and welfare benefits to employees and contractors, and continue its customer warranty programs.

However, the true test of whether a swift bankruptcy can occur in 30 to 60 days, as the Treasury Department claims, remains at an unknown date in the future. Still to be heard from are Chrysler’s debtors who object to the proposed $2 billion settlement on $6.9 billion in secured Chrysler debt. Even though the four largest banks holding 70% of this debt have agreed to the settlement, it is unknown how Judge Gonzalez will treat the issue. Other impediments to swift reemergence from bankruptcy remain, as hundred of motions from interested parties are expected.  

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comStill, day one went smoothly from Chrysler’s point of view. Only one day before, Chrysler announced a restructuring plan that was agreed to by many of its stakeholders including the Obama Administration, now its largest creditor. The Chrysler agreement in principle to establish a global strategic alliance with Fiat SpA is the cornerstone of a new company. (more…)