Elon Musk Revives a Grudge with a Favorite Enemy

Tesla’s billionaire CEO is resentful, never failing to remind his opponents of their past battles.

Elon Musk rarely forgets. And Tesla’s  (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc. Report billionaire CEO certainly doesn’t forget those who have opposed him or his companies. 

To ensure they don’t keep a short memory, he reminds them of the disputes that have pitted them against each other. 

No schadenfreude here; he doesn’t revel in their difficulties. But he often does point out those difficulties, and sharply.

Now, he has revived the rivalry with Henrik Fisker, the star automobile designer.

In February 2007 Tesla said it had offered a contract to Fisker, a renowned car designer who has worked for BMW, Ford and Aston Martin. 

The contract provided that the designer would work on the WhiteStar project, which would later become the Tesla Model S sedan.

Fisker could, however, work for other companies at the same time. 

Lawsuit Charged Theft of Trade Secrets

The designer left the upstart EV manufacturer to found his own firm, Fisker Automotive. Fisker unveiled the Karma, a plug-in hybrid sports sedan, at the Detroit auto show in January 2008. 

But in April of that year, Tesla filed a lawsuit claiming that Fisker had come up with the ideas for the plug-in hybrid car when he worked at Tesla. Basically, Fisker had stolen Tesla’s trade secrets, Tesla alleged.

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In the complaint, Tesla said Fisker agreed to work for the company because he wanted access to confidential company information. He took Tesla’s trade secrets to launch the Karma, a direct competitor vehicle to the WhiteStar project, the company alleged.

Fisker prevailed in November 2008. But the relationship between the two executives has been the collateral victim of this battle. Each has never missed an opportunity to attack the other.

For example, when Musk in April made a $44 billion bid to acquire the social network Twitter, Fisker immediately deleted his account on the platform without even waiting for the deal to close. 

What Goes Around …

Five months later it’s Musk’s turn to fight back. 

Indeed, the billionaire has just taken advantage of press articles reporting that Karma Automotive, which had acquired assets from Fisker Automotive after its bankruptcy in 2013, filed a complaint against four former executives. They are now running DeLorean Motors Reimagined, a company that holds the branding rights for the original DeLorean Motor Co.

Karma alleged that DeLorean CEO Joost de Vries, Chief Operating Officer Alan Yuan, Vice President Neilo Harris, and Chief Marketing Officer Troy Beetz stole its trade secrets to launch DeLorean Motors Reimagined. The new DeLorean company plans to produce electric versions of the iconic sports car, according to the lawsuit.

But Henrik Fisker had left Fisker Automotive before Karma arrived.

“How ironic, that’s what Henrik Fisker did to Tesla in 2007!” Musk tweeted on Sept. “Karma is a …” 

Basically, what goes around comes around.

Henrik Fisker founded another company, Fisker Inc., which rolled out its first model, the Fisker Ocean, on Sept. 13. The rollout came via the production line of Magna International,  (MGA) – Get Magna International Inc. Report the Aurora, Ontario, provider of automotive tech and supplies.

Production begins on Nov. 15, with deliveries starting shortly thereafter.

Fisker said last month that the Fisker Ocean One sold out in 30 days, with each secured by a $5,000 deposit, which amounts to $350 million in potential revenue once all the vehicles are delivered.

The Extreme model will sell for about $69,000, while the Ultra is priced at about $50,000. The Sport will go for $37,499 before incentives, which make it cheaper than Tesla’s lowest-priced Model 3, which starts at $46,990. 

Fisker went public in October 2020 in a so-called SPAC merger that netted the company about $1 billion in capital.

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