* Tom Lasorda to take new role to advise on strategy
* Lasorda also will work with board of directors
* Lasorda has manufacturing, electric-vehicle experience
NEW YORK, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Fisker Automotive has agreed to hire former Chrysler LLC chief executive, Tom Lasorda, in a newly created role to advise the green car maker on strategy and work with its board of directors, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The move comes as California-based Fisker works to boost sales of its high-cost plug-in electric sports cars and as it looks to broaden its portfolio of products.
Fisker made headlines in recent years after it received $529 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy and purchased a plant in Delaware from General Motors Co. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is among Fisker’s investors.
Lasorda, 57, joins the company at a time when electrified vehicles are under scrutiny after reports of battery fires related to GM’s high-profile Chevrolet Volt.
He was well known as a key manufacturing executive at GM before going to rival Chrysler in the 1990s, where he steadily moved up the ranks. Lasorda was influential in Daimler AG’s sale of Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management in 2007 and also was a prominent figure when Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was eventually taken over by Fiat SpA .
For Fisker, the appointment not only adds an executive with considerable manufacturing and labor experience to its roster, but also someone with recent experience in a variety of electric vehicle ventures. Since leaving Chrysler a couple of years ago, Lasorda has joined various boards of start-up companies with an interest in the battery-powered vehicle industry.
Henrik Fisker, a one-time Aston Martin designer, founded the automaker carrying his name in 2007. Since then, he has assembled a team of managers, including several former automotive executives, to try to build the company into a legitimate player in the global auto industry.
Fisker, like others in the electric vehicle market — such as Tesla Motors Inc, Nissan Motor Co and GM —is experiencing considerable headwinds when it comes to market acceptance of the vehicles it makes. Relatively cheap gasoline prices in the United States and high development costs that drive up the selling prices of these vehicles have worked to cool demand.
Still, Fisker recently said it will produce 15,000 of its electric sports cars in 2012 despite production delays that have sharply reduced the start-up carmaker’s projected deliveries in 2011 to 1,500 cars.
Production of Fisker’s first vehicle, the $96,000 plug-in hybrid Karma, was held up by faulty electrical harnesses and headlights, topped off by a flood that damaged the leather for its interior.
Fisker plans to eventually expand its lineup beyond the sporty Karma by offering a sedan and other body styles.