Call it either destiny or a blind surprise: Henrik Fisker, whose sultry Karma rocked the design world and then met harsh criticism, has reportedly left Fisker Automotive.
Fisker’s Karma wasn’t the first sinewy car to come from his pen: the designer’s credits include the 2004 Aston Martin DB9 (reportedly started by Ian Callum and finished by Fisker) and the BMW Z8 roadster. Fisker Automotive was founded in the Fall of 2007; the Karma debuted in 2008 at the North American International Auto Show and ultimately entered limited production in the summer of 2011.
The car, which is powered by two 161-hp electric motors and a 2.0-liter turbocharged Ecotec I-4, was beautiful enough to score our 2012 Design of the Year award, but the gorgeous design wasn’t enough to quell the car’s critics. Its EV-only range and overall fuel economy were both lower than originally anticipated, and the car’s top-shelf interior technology was initially prone to glitches. Speaking of glitches, Fisker recalled all 239 of its Karmas at the end of 2011 after it found issues with the high-voltage battery pack’s coolant system, which made the car prone to short circuits and fires. It followed that up in early 2012 by replacing all 2012 Karma battery packs (manufactured by now-defunct A123 Systems) after finding a manufacturing defect in the packs that could decrease performance, and issuing a recall for a low-temperature cooling fan after a burning Karma possibly caused a house fire in Northern California. The recall was a major blow to A123 Systems, and the battery manufacturer filed for bankruptcy in 2012. That disruption in the Karma’s supply chain reportedly meant that no new Karmas have been manufactured since last summer.
Fisker’s time at Fisker Automotive was also one of executive reshuffling: while Fisker was initially the CEO of his own company, he moved to executive chairman in February 2012 and hired GM/Chrysler veteran Tom LaSorda to serve as an interim CEO. LaSorda was replaced by ex-Chevy Volt program director Tony Posawatz in August 2012. Speaking of former GM executives, Joel Ewanick landed at Fisker shortly after being ousted as GM’s global marketing chief under suspicious circumstances.
According to Automotive News, Fisker left the company that bears his name over “’major disagreements’ with management on business strategy.” Fisker Automotive representatives did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication, so it’s unclear exactly what strategy that is.
It’s also unclear what’s going to happen to Fisker Automotive: there are already plans or designs for the Atlantic—a miniature Karma designed to fight the BMW 3 Series — as well as the Surf, a shooting brake version of the Karma. Fisker also had plans to begin assembling vehicles in the U.S. utilizing a former General Motors plant just in Delaware, but reports indicate the plant is still vacant. Missed deadlines in the Atlantic’s development timetable were allegedly to blame in the Department of Energy’s decision to freeze a $529 million loan to Fisker Automotive in early 2011, after having paid the automaker nearly $193 million.
Will Fisker Automotive -- sans Henrik Fisker -- survive? Stay tuned.
UPDATE: In a statement released to the press, Fisker Automotive said that it "recognizes and thanks Mr. Fisker for his service and many contributions." Additionally, it says that "the company has a strong and experience management team and its strategy has not changed." Finally, "Mr. Fisker's departure is not expected to impact the company's pursuit of strategic partnerships and financing."
Source: Automotive News via Twitter