FormerCEO Tom LaSorda says he will invest in in addition to joining the electric-vehicle maker as board vice chairman.
“I’m very bullish about this space,” LaSorda says of the extended-range EV technology featured in’s inaugural offering, the luxury-segment Karma sedan.
LaSorda’s decision to join Fisker also sees him become chairman of the board’s strategy council and an “executive advisor” on day-to-day operations to the company’s management team, reporting directly to co-founder and CEO Henrik Fisker.
“We are delighted to welcome Tom,” Henrik Fisker says in a statement. “The company is entering a new stage of growth, to which Tom’s strategic vision and experience will be vital. His appointment sends a strong statement about the future direction of Fisker Automotive as it becomes a global car company.”
Speaking to WardsAuto shortly after he and Fisker came to terms, LaSorda says his first order of business will be to travel to Finland where Valmet assembles the Karma.
Production for Europe launched in March. Retail deliveries to the all-important U.S. market began in November, later than originally planned.
Prior to joining, where he succeeded Dieter Zetsche as CEO, LaSorda established a reputation as a lean-manufacturing expert at . He says he will make himself available to Fisker Manufacturing Vice President Frank Faga, also an alum of Chrysler and GM.
On the horizon for Fisker is the launch of an EV priced below the Karma, which starts at $95,900. Known internally as Project Nina, after Christopher Columbus’ ship, the car will be assembled at a former GM plant in Wilmington, DE, a site acquired using funds from a
$529 million U.S. Department of Energy loan.
LaSorda also brings to the table a solid labor-relations track record. This could help the auto maker, as Henrik Fisker has had discussions with senior leadership at the United Auto Workers union and publicly has said he would welcome an organized workforce.
LaSorda’s father, Frank LaSorda, was a UAW local president.
The former Chrysler chief is unfazed by the turmoil surrounding the nascent EV market. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have agreed,” he says of his decision to join Fisker.
Within the last six months, U.S.-based EV startup Aptera has closed its doors and Norway-based Think entered bankruptcy. Think’s assets later were bought by Russian-magnate Boris Zingarevich, who is attempting to revive the company as Electric Mobility Solutions.
Against this backdrop, U.S. EV sales have, at times, been crimped by inventory woes.Leaf deliveries fell in November, compared with prior-month, and GM recently gave dealers the nod to sell their Chevrolet Volt demonstration models. However, the Volt is under investigation because of battery-system fires linked to government crash tests.
The Karma has not escaped controversy. The car was criticized after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave it a fuel-economy rating of 52 mpg (4.6 L/100 km). Fisker claims the Karma can achieve up to 100 mpg (2.4 L/100 km) annually if owners charge their vehicles overnight and their daily commutes do not exceed 50 miles (80 km).
LaSorda says he does not expect any conflict between his role at Fisker and his membership on the board of Canada-based battery maker Electrovaya. “They have a (battery) supplier in A123,” he says of Fisker.
Electrovaya is providing battery technology to support Chrysler’s plug-in hybrid program which, in April, began producing a planned fleet of 140 electrified Ram pickups – the first mass-produced vehicles from a major auto maker with reverse power-flow capability.
LaSorda is the second high-profile industry name to join the EV maker in the last 48 hours. Former Jaguar Land Rover North America sales and marketing boss Richard Beattie was named chief commercial officer.
Beattie’s resume also includes stints as president and CEO ofNorth American Operations and Lincoln-Mercury vice president-marketing, sales and service.
Joining LaSorda on Fisker’s board are Mindy Grossman, Scott Sandell and Timothy Shriver, the auto maker says.
Grossman is CEO of Home Shopping Network. Sandell is general partner with New Enterprise Associates, where he oversees the global investment firm’s China operations. And Shriver is chairman and CEO of Special Olympics.