Bury Fisker, not everyone else

Why is Henrik Fisker laying low and Elon Musk holding weekly pop press calls?  It’s jempirical evidence that an electric car is not an electric car, and yet another reminder that it sure is not easy breaking into the car market.  The second biggest consumer purchase.

I have to admit, the Karma is the hottest car in the game.  Sorry Elon, it’s sexier than the Model-S, at least on the drawing board which is pretty much where it still lives.  In the end, the Fisker model – under the hood and in the corporate office — didn’t have the same “hotness” that Henrik got when he put pen to paper.

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They drive-train  was competent in 2009, but not set to compete for the next decade.  Telsa put a lot of effort into the drive-train engineering to be able to evolve.

Fisker saw the battery as a commodity they could always buy form low cost suppliers like A123.  That didn’t work out as planned for either of them.  Tesla took a novel, and I’d say more conservative approach.

I’m still not clear what the Fisker distribution and service plan was.  Tesla has rankled the traditionalists with its new market online sales.  I have to say, it works for now, but will stretch them once they get some high volume.  This will be something to watch especially on the service side.

Investment is key and cash is king.  Fisker tried to leverage investment from suppliers.  This was never a good plan.  It’s tough for big guys like Ford and GM to get suppliers to front cash, and I never understood why Fisker thought they could pawn that off on a stretched supplier base.  Tesla has had a much better model of fundraising from private investors and even it’s very successful customer deposit plan.

The Toyota NUMMI plant versus GM’s Delaware.  No offence to the great team at Saturn,  but NUMMI combined with the RAV4 contract says a lot about Tesla heeding advice on how to build a great car.  Even out of Valmet, I heard complaints on build quality —  and they makes Porsche quality there, so I’ll lay that one on Fisker.

In the end Dongfeng and Geely waged a short bidding war.  As they positioned their bids, I wondered exactly what they were bidding for.  At best, what?  The rights to the Delaware plant?  They don’t have a fix for the battery or production woes.  Maybe they wanted to that sexy design.  In the end, I don’t believe it was politics that killed it, I think it was valuation.  Or lack thereof.  For those thinking the industry is circling to pick the carcass, don’t hold your breath. That could have been done prior to the damage to the brand today’s layoffs inflict.  Saab anyone.

As for Tesla, they still face some tough times ahead.  What to do when the first 50 thousand millionaires, buy their cool third or fourth car.  That would explain the Telsa finance put option.  That would create replacement demand for a whole new round of 85Kw Model X’s to sustain minimum output.

Back in 2008, Chris Paine, director of the 2006 documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car proclaimed: “We’re about halfway through the movie and we still don’t know the end of the story.”  Let’s call this the end of Act I and the plot has thickened.

Fisker had a lot of great people working for him.  The result was not for lack of effort.  I hope other automakers and other industries snatch up the talent.

Let’s not bury the electric car here,  But I would suggest we bury this one try.  Good luck, but let’s move on.  A slow drawn out process will only become infectious.

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