After we posted our take on the reported ouster of EV startup Aptera’s founders, Popular Mechanics jumped in to deny the charge. The magazine dutifully reported that Aptera’s founders had conveniently decided to take a vacation, unquestioningly citing the assertions of Aptera CFO Marques McCammon. But it seems the underlying conflict– whether to go to market with the existing product or cut costs while waiting for federal funding to produce a redesigned vehicle– has been resolved in favor of Aptera’s new auto industry insiders. A company press release confirms that the 2e has been delayed until 2010, indicating that the lack of federal funding (or some unanticipated private investment) is the stumbling point. The situation with Aptera’s founders, however, is still something of a mystery. And it’s not the only curiosity to be dredged out of Aptera during this challenging interlude.
Aptera CEO Paul Wilbur explains in the company press release:
“Because of this production delay, we’ve unfortunately been forced to lay off some hard working employees. It’s a strategy to streamline our spending to hone in on the items that advance our fundraising and completion of our first vehicle.
“Additionally as part of this plan, co-founder Chris Anthony is stepping aside from day-to-day activities to concentrate on his two other companies, Epic Boats and Flux Power.”
Aptera’s other co-founder, Steve Fambro, who started tinkering with the idea of building an aerodynamic vehicle five years ago, is taking a short leave of absence and will re-engage with the company in the new year.
“Right now my advanced work is a lower priority for Aptera,” said Fambro, the company’s Chief Technical Officer who directs all advanced concept development activities. “We’ve got to be wholly focused on funding and getting the first 2e on the road.
Meanwhile, the rule that drama seems to beget more drama is proving true. “S.Hval” sent us a tip on a rumor swirling around the ApteraForum, centering on company CFO Laura Marrion. Though you wouldn’t know it from her official bio (which only lists experience at Saleen and Specialty Vehicles Acquisition Corp), Marrion was fined $40k by the SEC for her role in Delphi’s $700m accounting fraud. Marrion came into the company with Wilbur and a number of other industry insiders, and though there’s no evidence that there’s monkey business going on in bookkeeping, her role in the Delphi fraud isn’t helping Aptera’s true believers deal with the loss of the company’s founders.
Adding to the drama is the fact that fans have found that Aptera’s news feed has been modified to eliminate all signs of bad news. EV startups, especially those with quirky designs like Aptera’s, are fueled by the passion of enthusiasts who are willing to overlook all kinds of downsides in order to get what they believe to be bleeding-edge vehicles. At this point, bringing in Detroit insiders is not looking like a good way to build on that enthusiasm.