Volt Executive Tony Posawatz Is New CEO Of Fisker Automotive

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Volt Line Director Tony Posawatz

Volt Line Director Tony Posawatz

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In an unexpected announcement, struggling startup electric-car maker Fisker Automotive this morning named Tony Posawatz its new CEO and President.

He replaces Tom LaSorda, himself appointed CEO only in late February. LaSorda will leave the company but remain available as an advisor.

Posawatz spent more than four years in executive positions on the team that developed the ground-breaking Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car.

Six weeks ago, he retired from 32 years at General Motors, and few expected him to jump right back into the car business.

But aside from GM, Fisker is the sole carmaker now selling a range-extended electric vehicle (or series hybrid). On the basis of technology alone, his new position makes sense.

In the words of company cofounder Henrik Fisker, the appointment is a "continuing strengthening of the management team."

Posawatz faces two challenges, both immediate and both daunting.

First, he must clean up the mess around the launch of the 2012 Fisker Karma luxury sport sedan, which finally struggled into the market late last year.

The Karma has been plagued by one recall, two service upgrades, a slow production ramp-up, and quality flaws both large and small.

Also, battery packs in hundreds of Karmas had to be replaced following a recall by lithium-ion cell maker A123 Systems.

The latest challenge is the second fire within three months in a Karma, a car of which about 1,000 have been built, according to Fisker.

READ MORE: 2012 Fisker Karma Is Real, But Will Company Survive?

Second, he must plan and execute the development of the Fisker Atlantic, the company's follow-on vehicle--and the one it expects to sell in enough volume to make the company profitable enough to survive.

The Atlantic was unveiled in April at the New York Auto Show, but its schedule too has slipped. It will have a second generation of the company's powertrain.

As yet, there is no firm production timetable--and the Wilmington, Delaware, factory in which it was to be built may be mothballed until a third Fisker vehicle line emerges.

Fisker Atlantic concept unveiling before New York Auto Show, April 2012

Fisker Atlantic concept unveiling before New York Auto Show, April 2012

Enlarge Photo

If the company survives until then, that is.

But Posawatz, said respected electric-car advocate Chelsea Sexton, "loves this sort of underdog challenge, and the potential to do cool stuff."

A "car guy" through and through, he enjoys the demands of doing the unexpected--and occasionally the impossible.

"I couldn't think of any other program where I'd be having as much fun" as on the Volt, he said in a 2009 interview, just a few months after GM had declared bankruptcy and gone through a grueling Federal restructuring.

"I mean, the whole team is working hard, but we're having fun."

Much of the Volt team, Sexton said, has "seemed bored after working for years with their hair on fire" and she suspects Posawatz felt similarly. He once termed the Volt project a "startup inside GM," so the scale of Fisker's challenges may be familiar.

Sexton views the addition of Posawatz to the Fisker team as a huge positive for the beleaguered company.

"It may seem bizarre at first" that he would go from GM--where he'd spent virtually his whole career--to the struggling startup in southern California, she said.

But, "Tony's industry respect, experience, and connection to top talent in the electric-car world will help Fisker more than dollars would at this point."

Tom Lasorda

Tom Lasorda

Enlarge Photo

In her opinion, it's a good fit. "The job totally suits Tony's personality and his place in life right now," she said.

"He's so well respected, and Fisker is seen as so far gone, that no one will blame him if it can't be saved."

"And, people will go to work for Tony who would never join Fisker on their own," Sexton added. "His first priority needs to be recruiting that talent and cultivating the stakeholder relationships that have long been lacking with Fisker."

More familiar faces from the original Volt development team and the industry at large may well join Posawatz, she suggested, once he's situated.

Meanwhile, so much for Posawatz's stated goal of "unwinding near the ocean, reading, writing, thinking, and enjoying the activity and time with family."

He's already at work in Fisker's California offices this week.


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Comments (13)
  1. We are seeing an excitingly new type of automaker emerge now. This kind of competition will raise the bar for all in the industry as with Tesla, Coda and the like. Fisker, if fixed, could be a strong brand that will put more and more consumers into the seats of plugin electric cars. Moving our nation's personal transportation needs away from oil and towards home-made electricity as the standard car fuel, while at the same time allowing car owners to enjoy a much better ride/ auto product than ever possible before with gasoline cars.

  2. When most executives say they are "putting out fires" it is usually just an expression.

  3. I've liked Henrick Fisker since he designed the BMW Z8 I hope that Fisker Automotive can become a viable healthy company. And I'm sure what they've learned from the Karma will serve to make the Atlantic a better car. I was looking at buying a Karma as a weekend/day off sports car, but just felt that it's performance and equipment didn't quite justify it's price tag.

  4. You would be pleasantly surprised that you are incorrect on that feeling, sir! The Karma's performance is outstanding and the solar panels on the roof power the H-Vac and stereo, so not only do you not have a zillion parts like pistons and such to break down - you don't even have a battery to replace constantly! The Karma is an extremely well planned out vehicle that tromps anything on the road today! And when you are just driving locally, it is FREE! Can't beat that!! I would strongly suggest that if you get the opportunity to purchase one that you do - you won't regret it! ;-) And why only a weekend/day off car? Drive to work and back for FREE every weekday then cruise thru the weekends!! ;-)

  5. I never understood the price tag of the Fisker Karma. The car is heavy and it isn't all that fast (comparing with its price class) and it isn't all that good in efficiency. for the price, you can get a Tesla S and a Volt. If you don't care about being green, BMW, Porsche and Mercedez all produce better cars for less. For green cars, Tesla S is better...

  6. 100% agreed. I think Fiskar's plan was to beat Tesla to market and steal their thunder, but that didn't exactly work out. I'd love to see another attractive design survive, but I don't hold out much hope at this stage. It was closer to the Roadster price tag, anyway, but still apples to oranges, I'd think...

  7. Um ... WRONG! The Karma was being developed and perfected for years before the Tesla was even a gleam in the eye! Check public records to find out how Fisker handed Tesla their butts in court when Tesla laughably tried to sue Fisker. Learn the truth that Tesla has NO thunder to steal! The Karma is the best car on the road today and if you knew what you were talking about you would know that! My Karma is SO fast SO manueverable SO smooth it leaves the others in the proverbial dust! Without pistons and spark plugs to misfire, gears to shift, etc. - when I press on that accelorator I am not just going - I am already GONE! You really need to educate yourself!

  8. @Shirley: Wrong again, I'm afraid. Tesla Motors was incorporated in July 2003. Fisker Automotive wasn't incorporated until 2007.

  9. @Shirley: And, ummmmmm, unlike a Tesla, you do recognize your Fisker Karma has pistons and spark plugs in its range extender ... right?

  10. You clearly have NO idea what you are talking about! I own a Karma and it is the best car on the road today!! Fast, smooth, and handles amazingly. And heavy makes it able to turn corners on a dime with all four tires still firmly on the road so you have speed and safety! Teslas are hunks of misplanned junk with the batteries in the TRUNK! Karmas have theirs cleverly placed lengthwise down the middle of the car creating both a front and back seat console as well as putting the center of gravity squarely in the middle of the car for best performance! What do you drive?? Sounds like a Corolla with your lack of information and knowledge! Don't embarrass yourself any further please!

  11. @Shirley: Actually, you're wrong. The lithium-ion battery pack in the Tesla Model S is in the floorpan, not in the rear load bay or in the "front trunk".

  12. if Fiskar works out, they could become a luxury brand for one of the bigger automakers. If Volkswagen or Hyundai, or Peugoeot or Chrysler wanted
    a product and technology insertion, acquiring them now may be a good idea

  13. This new CEO has nothing to lose and everything to gain by coming out of retirement.
    If he makes Fisker profitable, he is a hero.
    If Fisker fails, he can blame previous management.

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