Tom LasordaEnlarge Photo
If the proverbial Chinese curse is true, Fisker Automotive has truly been living in interesting times.
Its Karma range-extended electric luxury sport sedan struggled into the market in December, months late, and in January the DoE froze $336 million in untapped loans to the company.
Now Fisker has named board member and vice chairman Tom LaSorda, formerly CEO and then a co-president of Chrysler, as its new CEO.
The news was reported by the Wall Street Journal (may require subscription), which broke the story about an hour before a press conference to be held by Fisker for a "major business announcement."
Founder Henrik Fisker, who designed luxury vehicles for Aston Martin and BMW before founding the green automaker in 2007, will become executive chairman and take on a new role in building the brand globally.
Now that the Fisker Karma is on sale in the U.S. and Europe, Fisker said he will help raise brand awareness in the Mideast and China, as well as staying intimately involved in the design and styling of the company's next vehicle, the Project Nina line of mid-size plug-in vehicles.
LaSorda joined Fisker's board in December, after helping to run a collapsing Chrysler during the challenging period when it was owned by private-equity firm Cerberus Partners.
It is to be hoped that Fisker does not follow Chrysler's trajectory, which ended in bankruptcy. But missed deadlines, mixed reviews for the Karma, and rumors of customers walking away from Karma deposits may put its survival in doubt.
A wrenching restructuring funded by the U.S. and Canadian governments ended in the effective sale of a reconstituted Chrysler to Italian automaker Fiat, which now controls the third-largest U.S. carmaker.
While Fisker hasn't given up hope of resurrecting its loans from the U.S. Department of Energy, insiders are betting that the tenuous company is just too risky for the U.S. government to fund in an election year.
2012 Fisker Karma during road test, Los Angeles, Feb 2012Enlarge Photo
Fisker had already missed not only its original loan-document deadlines, but a revised set of deadlines negotiated within the last two years.
Fisker laid off some workers as a result of the DoE freeze, and the company has suspended development of its next vehicle line, the "Project Nina" mass-market mid-size car.
That vehicle was to be built in a former GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware. The announcement of the plant was made with great fanfare by Vice President Joe Biden, who accidentally let slip the Nina's model lineup during interviews.