Fisker names former Chevy Volt chief as new CEO

AP News
Posted: Aug 14, 2012 2:51 PM
Fisker names former Chevy Volt chief as new CEO

DETROIT (AP) — Luxury hybrid maker Fisker Automotive said Tuesday it has named the former head of electric vehicles at General Motors as its new CEO.

Tony Posawatz, 52, will become CEO effective immediately. He replaces Tom LaSorda, a former CEO of Chrysler who joined Fisker in February.

It's the latest effort to add some gravitas to the fledgling Fisker, a five-year-old, privately held company that makes just one model — the Fisker Karma — and has been dogged by money issues and quality problems.

Last month, Fisker named a former Ford Motor Co. executive, Jim Yost, as its chief financial officer. On Tuesday, it named former GM and Chrysler executive Joseph Chao as its CEO of Asia, where it hopes to start selling cars later this year. The company also recently partnered with actor and Fisker investor Leonardo DiCaprio to help market the brand.

LaSorda said finding a long-term CEO was one of his responsibilities when he took the job. He recruited Posawatz after Posawatz retired from GM on July 1.

Posawatz spent more than 30 years at GM, where his last job was head of global electric vehicle development. He was the first person named to the development team of the Chevrolet Volt electric car in 2006 and ran that team for the next six years. The Volt went on sale in late 2010.

"Tony is the perfect CEO for Fisker," LaSorda said. "He has been at the forefront of the industry's technological revolution and one of the few people in the world to bring an EV to mass production."

The Karma, a 400-horsepower, $100,000 super car, and the Volt, a $31,500 family sedan, don't seem to have much in common at first glance. But they share similar technology. Both can go for 30 to 40 miles on battery power alone but have backup gas engines if the battery gets depleted. Fisker has sold a little over 1,000 Karmas since last fall. GM has sold 18,678 Volts since the end of 2010.

Fisker has a midsize sedan, the Atlantic, in development, but that project was delayed after the Department of Energy suspended a $529 million loan to the company. The government suspended the loan after the introduction of the Karma was delayed because of trouble with battery packs and other issues. The Karma also had to be recalled earlier this summer because coolant could leak and potentially start a fire. Coincidentally, the Volt was also recalled last year because of the potential for coolant leaks.

Posawatz said he has seen the Atlantic and is excited about its potential.

The naming of experienced executives could help allay the concerns of private investors and help Fisker raise the money it needs to get the Atlantic to market by the end of next year. Fisker said in May that it raised $174 million in private financing and took in $100 million in revenue in the first four months of this year.