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Futuristic Electric-Car Dream Dead? Aptera To Refund Deposits

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Aptera 2e development prototype at company offices in Vista, California

Aptera 2e development prototype at company offices in Vista, California

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It was great while it lasted, but the dream of being able to buy a sleek, three-wheeled Aptera 2e electric car seems to be receding into the distance.

A month ago, the company stopped taking deposits for new Apteras, blaming an issue with the escrow account in which they were held.

Now, the company says it will return all deposits it has taken to the customers who had signed up to buy an Aptera 2e electric car or the planned 2h hybrid.

In a note mailed last night at 5:25 pm California time (which is to say, after the close of business), "Team Aptera" wrote, in part: "... as you know, our path to production has been longer than anticipated, which has complicated our reservation administration to the point that we have decided to return your deposit."

The company attributed the decision to its credit-card processing system, saying it "..is designed for transactions to be completed in a six-month window. Since most of Aptera's deposits have been in reserve for more than six months, maintenance of the account has become problematic for our credit card processor and administratively cumbersome for Aptera."

Aptera 2e

Aptera 2e

Enlarge Photo

What happens next? Aptera writes, "... reservation holder contact information will be moved to our newly created VIP database and used to provide you with exclusive information about future happenings at Aptera.

"As our production date approaches, we will use the database to direct you to your local retailer so you can be among the first to own an Aptera vehicle."

The letter closes as follows: "We appreciate your longstanding support of Aptera. As we get closer to producing the world's most energy efficient vehicles, we know that you will be right there with us..."

Perhaps. But the lack of concrete steps for moving forward doesn't sound like good news to us.

Aptera 2e during Automotive X-Prize handling tests, from Consumer Reports video on YouTube

Aptera 2e during Automotive X-Prize handling tests, from Consumer Reports video on YouTube

Enlarge Photo

GreenCarReports drove an early Aptera 2e prototype almost two years ago. As recently as 18 months ago, Aptera hoped to build up to 10,000 of its striking 2e electric cars a year.

Last September, the company made the finals but didn't win the Progressive Automotive X-Prize challenge (including an unfortunate door-opening incident). This May, just before deposit-taking ended, it said it would move its factory out of San Diego,

Company chief marketing officer Marques McCammon wasn't terribly forthcoming last month about Aptera's financial problems or future plans, following the decision to stop taking deposits.

Aptera 2e production intent vehicle

Aptera 2e production intent vehicle

Enlarge Photo

He said at the time, “We are under a strict NDA as a part of our DOE Loan application that limits my ability to comment on that at this time," referring to Aptera's hope of receiving low-interest loans under the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program.

That program, while it has awarded loans to startups Tesla and Fisker, requires companies to show that they could be viable without receiving the loans. It's unclear whether Aptera can do so.

McCammon also said last month, "We will, however, be making some important announcements in the near future.”

We suspect that refunding all deposits may not have been what he had in mind.

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Comments (11)
  1. It does sound like they're bailing out a sinking ship. Now will they patch the leak or abandon ship? Sadly, it's another wait and see situation.
     
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  2. There seems to be legal limitations about how long corporations can hold onto your money.

    When purchasing a car some years ago, I put down a $300 deposit and then backed out of the deal. The dealer was PO'ed and wouldn't return my deposit. Shortly after January 1 of the next year, their accounting department called to say they were returning the money to me. Apparently they couldn't hold on to it.

    More recently, I had a $80 credit on my credit card. After three months, they sent me a check for the amount.
     
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  3. John,

    The question is though - do you think Aptera will be taking deposits again?

    Good to see you commenting here!
     
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  4. I had a Leaf deposit on my card for over a year. Nissan credited me back after I got the car. I doubt there's public law involved, just a contractual agreement between Aptera and their card processor. I was interested in Aptera for awhile, but am now quite happy with my Leaf. Jump in, the water's fine!
     
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  5. "Requires companies to show that they could be viable without receiving the loans."
    Is this typical Fed logic or what? We'll help you out as long as you can prove that you don't need our help. Isn't it good that our Federal govt is a monopoly, now that the states have no say in anything? Where is "clean state" (and bankrupt) California
    in all this? Where are the big mouthed Hollywood ecofriendly "stars" like Tom Hanks, Clooney, Spielberg and all the rest - lots of money making crappy shoot em up films and nothing to help companies like Aptera? Shame on them phonies.
     
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  6. @Kent: Yet more anger [sigh]. But, really, would you rather that the Feds offer low-interest loans to companies that CANNOT prove short-term viability? Surely the consequent losses would be an irresponsible use of our tax dollars--and would provoke another predictably angry and bitter rant from you as well?
     
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  7. @Kent, ah, the usual anger at everything on Earth that isn't Tea Party-friendly and doesn't fit your little warped view of the world. Yes, the govt.'s insistence on granting money to companies that actually might make it is clearly stupid... And attacking Hollywood "stars" (are Hanks, Clooney, Spielberg, et al not stars because you don't like them?) for not buying a vehicle that isn't even available yet...?!?!
    You're a strange person, obsessing over your anti-EV, anti-environment agenda and going from site to site to attack everyone. At least you finally were able to post once and not call the Volt the ugliest car ever.
    And the three celebrities, they're certainly known for crappy shoot em up films... not. Filled with rage much?
     
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  8. Self-aware much?
     
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  9. Crossing the chasm from hand-built prototypes to production has claimed many casualties. I hate to say it but it looks like Nikki was right when she predicted Aptera's demise several months ago when the founder left the company.
     
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  10. Got that email right after I had posted Aptera earlier on Friday to get my deposit back.
     
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  11. I don't want to step on any toes, but I've got to say the appearance of the car is something that would be accepted by only a small fraction of customers, no matter what the benefits were. It's hard enough for people to accept the concept of driving an electric, and I believe companies make a big mistake by making them look bizarre. In the spirit of getting electric to reach critical mass, car companies need to make these cars appealing to the broad market. Nissan has hit pretty close to the mark, though my Leaf still looks a little goofy (I just pretend it's a Tesla S).
     
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