* Fisker founder, CEO disagreed over DOE funds -sources
* CEO, founder also had different views on budget -sources
* Henrik Fisker resigned from the company last week
By Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT, March 19 The abrupt resignation of
Fisker Automotive's founder Henrik Fisker was prompted by
disagreements with the company's chief executive over funding
and operational strategy, two people familiar with the matter
Friction between Fisker and CEO Tony Posawatz came to a head
as the cash-strapped "green car" start-up stepped up efforts to
find a financial backer to buy a stake and help build its second
model, the Atlantic plug-in hybrid, the sources said.
Fisker left last week at a sensitive time for the company,
which has been in strategic talks with China's Geely, the owner
of Sweden's Volvo, and state-owned Dongfeng Motor Group Co
. Geely has since bowed out of bidding process, sources
have said, though they added the decision was not related to
While both executives agreed that the company needed a
strategic partner after the rocky, delayed introduction of the
$100,000 plus Karma plug-in hybrid, they were at odds over
whether to rely on federal funds and the extent of the financing
Posawatz, a former General Motors Co engineer who had led
the firm since August, sought to work with the U.S. Department
of Energy to regain access to a $529 million federal loan, the
sources said. The DOE had barred the company from drawing down
the remaining $336 million of the loan due to the delays in the
launch of the Karma.
But Fisker, a noted designer who also has worked for BMW
and Aston Martin, was opposed to relying on additional
federal funds. He also favored a smaller operating budget than
the one backed by Posawatz. The difference between the two
budgets was in the "hundreds of millions", one source said.
The sources declined to be identified as they were
disclosing internal discussions at the company.
A Fisker spokesman did not return messages seeking comment.
In an email last week, Fisker said he was leaving due to
"several major disagreements" between himself and the company's
executive management over business strategy. He declined to
describe the nature of the disagreements.
In addition to the Karma's delayed launch, the auto maker
faced several quality problems with the Karma last year and the
bankruptcy of its main battery supplier, A123 Systems Inc.
The U.S. presidential election also cast a negative light on
the company and turned it into a political punching bag.
The company said Fisker's exit would not prompt a change in
Since its founding in 2007, Fisker Automotive raised more
than $1.2 billion from private investors. But it was relying on
the DOE funding to pay for the Atlantic sedan, which would have
been the company's high-volume model.
The DOE awarded the funds in 2009 as part of an Obama
administration program to spur advanced vehicle development.