• Apr 15, 2008
As we recently reported, rumors have been swirling regarding Henrik Fisker's involvement with Tesla Motors and its upcoming electric sedan prototype known as the WhiteStar. As is often the case, there's apparently some truth to the scuttlebutt, as Tesla has filed a lawsuit claiming that Fisker Automotive is using stolen design ideas from Tesla sourced when Fisker Coachbuild was employed by the young EV automaker for the styling of its sedan.

According to Tesla chairman Elon Musk, "We could not use the Fisker styling. The styling was substandard compared to what he unveiled for his product. He gave us an inferior work product, and it's obvious why." In the process of working for Tesla, the lawsuit contends that Henrik Fisker and a few of his associates stole design ideas and confidential information related to the design of hybrid and electric cars. Fisker has since announced his upcoming Karma hybrid-electric sedan. Tesla seeks to have Fisker Automotive stop using any design ideas garnered from its relationship with Tesla, and any money paid to Fisker Coachbuild returned along with other unspecified damages.



[Source: The New York Times]


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 36 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      im thinking above this themes whos will be the winner in this race to the needs onthis petroleum prices?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Good luck proving it tesla. Tesla really is a car for cry baby liberals.
      • 6 Years Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      My whole problem with this is that its one up start suing another....because they are competing. Also, if you read any of the earlier stories about the Karma, the powertrain is being developed by Quantum Technologies in Irvine. Now, unless Tesla suddenly outsourced everything to Quantum, I'm pretty sure the Karma has a power train created for it, not using Tesla tech notes. Pro-Tesla is that yes Fisker penned a design for them a few months in advance than made his design, the argument could be made he intended to make the car around the same time so limited his work on White Star. Either way, I think the companies are going too much at each other rather than working towards getting product on the market.
      • 6 Years Ago
      That is one heck of an ugly Karma, stuck with one heck of an ugly moustache grille. I can go on and on about how irregular contours and shapes ala Bangled flame surfacing do not make appealing car designs. Suffice to say, when the Karma is as substandard as it is, then Fisker's concept for the Whitestar must have been a substandard of a substandard.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I love how the grill completely and totally destroys the car.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I haven't even seen a White Star prototype yet. But this whole thing sounds like a waste of time over a bunch of foolishness. Too much like Chamco/ZX's lawsuit against Steve Saleen. Instead of fighting over designs ofr rediculously overpriced toys, both companies shold be trying to develop small, affordable, fuel-saving vehicles that average consumers can actually afford to buy.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Fisker Karma. Doesn't really roll off of the tongue, but that's a sexy automobile...er, electromoblie.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't think people understand this story. While Fisker was working with Tesla they designed this Fisker sedan. Fisker stole some of Tesla's technology, took the sedan design, uglied it up and sold it to Tesla. Then, they went behind Tesla's back and created their own vehicle with the design they SHOULD HAVE sold to Tesla while under contract.

      This is COMPLETELY different than Lotus working with Tesla. So don't even mention that, it will cause a circular argument.

      How can you people stand up for Fisker on this? They're using the same cheap business tactics as the Chinese companies we all love to hate use.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I don't think YOU understand the story. This is more like how is goes. Tesla commissioned Fisker to do work on the design of their 4 door Whitestar. While they were working together, they probably came to disagreements on couple issues. Perhaps, Tesla gave Fisker very bad package to work with, Fisker wasn't willing to comprise on the design that his name was riding on. Thus, the relationship broke off, unfortunately.

        Now, Fisker needds to come out with something to generate more revenue and please its investors. And time is just right as electric cars are once again becoming noticed and discussed. Thus Fisker goes out and finds out that the Quantum Technologies will be willing to work with him to make his own 4 door electric sedan.

        Fisker then goes on to design his own sedan (NOT simultaneously with Whitestar, but rather AFTER), with design cues of his own Fisker line of cars (Remember Tramonto and Latigo?). And being a good designer Fisker is, he knows how to make cars look good and makes it. (Low, Wide, and sleek - oh well...except some questionable details)

        And Tesla, who's beaten by their once-commissioned Fisker to create a show car for the public to see, realized that they should've listened to Fisker about making a good looking car, because the design of their 'substandard' 4-door sedan was compromised by none but themselves.

        Thus, Fisker is NOT using the design of Whitestar they delivered to Tesla. He is using his own design that he likes and was not compromised by others (Exectutives at Tesla who probably don't know much about CAR design)

        But I do see the point of what Farminded mentioned about client-design consultancy relationship. Something to think about... for sure.

        • 6 Years Ago
        "How can you people stand up for Fisker on this? They're using the same cheap business tactics as the Chinese companies we all love to hate use."

        Like the Japanese have been known to copy for decade after decade (and still steal the bangle butt from BMW now) and you most likely think the Japanese are great and will stand up for them. The Japanese got 1% loans from their banks and their gov't has always helped them to take over industries.

        Do you not know this?

        I hope I never *have* to buy a Chinese or a Japanese car. Believe it or not, I've gotten along extremely well without either so far.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Futurama, I appreciate you making your point without personal attacks. You make very good points but personally I feel that there is a huge lack of business ethics on the Fisker side. Don't you think so?
        • 6 Years Ago
        They are both going to fail. Tesla is just the more desperate of the two.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Check this out: http://www.engadget.com/2008/04/15/teslas-original-transmission-maker-sues-it-for-back-payment/

        Ha! Looks like I chose the wrong time to praise Tesla. They're business as usual after all.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Lithous @ Apr 15th 2008 6:57PM wrote:
        "if Americans weren't so dumb they wouldn't be so biased and therefore GM would be in great shape right now..."

        Excuses, excuses, excuses. Get this in your head now, late rather than never. In the old days, GM (and the domestic Big 3 in general) focused their resources on SUVs and trucks with high-profit margins. They neglected to focus on car development, which allowed the foreign brands (read: Toyota, Honda, et al) to overtake them in this area. As gas prices rose in the last few years, the American public became averse to gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks, which benefited the foreign cars. In response to changing consumer demands, GM has improved its game with a new generation of cars such as the Chevy Malibu and the Caddy CTS. Next time, before you and your fellow domestic fanboys blame "dumb" American car buyers again, just remember this: their collective "bias" in refusing GM's last generation of mediocre cars was directly responsible for GM's current resurgence.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "I'm going to attack this from a business perspective. (Not from an car maniac perspective.) So those of you who don't like business and those of you who are primarily consumers/brand loyalists shouldn't read... You won't like what you'll hear."

        And I'll attack this from I understand history better than you do and if Americans weren't so dumb they wouldn't be so biased and therefore GM would be in great shape right now...



        "Us economists out there see Tesla as the "new hope" for an American car company."

        They are stupid then. The Japanese come up with hybrid technology and they build it in their facility at home. Tesla will always build their electric motor in Taiwan (or China) and as a Republic of China those engines will be copied right from the assembly line and made better by the Chinese and sold in competition. It is stupid business. The only reason that model works for Apple right now with their ipods is that thier itunes software is so key and that isn't made in china; otherwise, they would be more like Kodak which makes things in foreign lands and has nothing exceptional. Because if some random Chinese or Taiwanese company can build it then it isn't special.


        "The opposite brand loyalty surrounding GM and Ford is astonishing."

        Yes it is. And our minds are numb with any kind of common sense and to prove it look at U.S. test scores and business rankings (i.e. what is America truly #1 in anymore.) The point is that GM does better everywhere else, even where people are more educated (better test scores.) We can't stop our houses from foreclosure etc. but because we are not paying as much for each GM car that we pay for each Japanese car then we are geniuses and automatically, GM sucks.



        "Tesla is a fresh start. From an economics point of view, I am hoping that Tesla will expand, employ Americans, and inflate our GDP."

        Yeah, because God knows that GM still employes more than twice as many Americans as even Toyota and thousands of times more Americans than Tesla so please keep hoping that Tesla builds more here. And they may as long as we have a crappy economy.


        "Tesla's business model is exemplary."

        They are just delivering some of their first product so it is kind of early to tell how successful they will be and they outsourced just about everything for this vehicle. I don't see the Japanese outsourcing much.



        "They are starting with the Roadster and moving their way "down.""

        Down? Down in price you mean? But up in complexity. Getting a very light car to work with batteries is easy compared to even a sedan. So if you mean down in price then OK but if you mean "down" in anything else then I can't imagine what. The Japanese and Koreans all moved "up", btw, and look at them.


        "Many economists see GM and Ford as jokes..."

        Right, because they don't put commercials telling everyone how they support 200K North American jobs like Toyota does (which includes dealerships and manufacturing and suppliers and the cafe across the street and the kitchen sink) and so a company that supports as many jobs as GM still does (imagine more than Toyota) is a joke? No wonder economist don't speak out publicly much to help guide Americans, they must not understand simple things. Like, maybe if GM sells more vehicles in the #1 and #2 car markets in the world than anybody then maybe there is something there (and if it wasn't for brainwashed Americans Toyota and Honda would be half as profitable), yes, 50% of Honda and Toyota world profits come from here. Dumb, overpaying for foreign goods Americans. Maybe the joke is the stupid Americans that overpay for Hondas and Toyotas. Because with 50% profit from the U.S. the rest of the world certainly isn't overpaying nearly as much. So that is a fact.


        "They're never thinking toward the future."

        Except when GM started Saturn from the ground up starting in the 1980s to fight imports. Or had the only electric vehicle with anything near the horsepower that ICE engines had for their time in the 1990s. And now, their two mode hybrid system is more advanced than the $115K Lexus hybrid system and the GM one was designed and built (the system components) in the U.S. (I thought you like that kind of thing? Toyota can't say that they do that)


        "And us conservative economists see them as deterrents to our economy."

        Then you are stupid. Point blank. Under educated. Period.



        "(Our government bailing them out is absurd. They have to learn how to make and market products people will buy instead of complaining and looking to the government for help.)"
        • 6 Years Ago
        Hasn't anyone out there gone to business school? I can't believe that none of you have done a case study on the domestic automobile companies.

        I'm sure you all are right. What do us with MBA's know? You're right, GM, a company which is failing now (like it was in the 70'), is right and us economists are all wrong.

        Big Rocket, I'm surprised about your reply. You seem to agree with what I said minus my personal bias against the domestics. "They neglected to focus on car development, which allowed the foreign brands (read: Toyota, Honda, et al) to overtake them in this area." You completely confirmed my point. They don't think about the future.

        I can't understand why you all are so loyal to these companies. Don't you want a company that will succeed to replace them? A company that will employ American blue-collar workers as well as American executives? However, I am a highly conservative supply sider so me not comprehending this brand loyalty isn't that big of a revolution. But seriously, how can you all not demand that these companies start getting in gear? It would be highly and comprehensively beneficial to our economy in the very long run.

        Lithous, I think it's strange that you instantly asume I love Chinese and Japanese cars. I HATE the idea of purchasing such expensive foreignly designed vehicles. But that's not how the market works. Dollar votes flow to those products that the majority of consumers demand. Even a blind man can see how awful GM and Ford are doing. Even a high school economics class should be able to understand that GM and Ford doing poorly means they aren't being allocatively efficient.

        You say that GM's hybrid system is better than Toyotas but "it just needs to be reduced in size." That's my point and I agree completely. If GM were a proactive company they would already be producing this technology in smaller cars in order to crush the Prius.

        Lithous, you said, "Then you are stupid. Point blank. Under educated. Period." (You forgot your hyphen in "under-educated.") Tell me I am under-educated after you get your masters from Haas. I can't understand why you keep having to use these childish, dimwitted personal attacks in order to make your point.

        In summary: I want the domestics to start running their companies better (or to be replaced by a domestic company that would.) If they did succeed we would have much better employment and money flow to our country instead of to Japan or China. I would think any American would want that.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Still can't find one. So why don't Tesla show us the image of the car that's causing all the fuss and get it over with?

      Meanwhile, I'll just wait until Think rolls out the Ox, or GM brings out the Volt. At least those will be affordable-and everyone knows what they look like.
      • 6 Years Ago
      In other news, GM produces the first viable PHEV for the masses as Tesla and Fisker file chapter 11 due to mounting legal fees.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm going to attack this from a business perspective. (Not from an car maniac perspective.) So those of you who don't like business and those of you who are primarily consumers/brand loyalists shouldn't read... You won't like what you'll hear.

        Us economists out there see Tesla as the "new hope" for an American car company. The opposite brand loyalty surrounding GM and Ford is astonishing. Tesla is a fresh start. From an economics point of view, I am hoping that Tesla will expand, employ Americans, and inflate our GDP.

        Tesla's business model is exemplary. They are starting with the Roadster and moving their way "down." Many economists see GM and Ford as jokes... They're never thinking toward the future. And us conservative economists see them as deterrents to our economy. (Our government bailing them out is absurd. They have to learn how to make and market products people will buy instead of complaining and looking to the government for help.)

        Tesla is an American dream company in the automobile industry. It's strange how so many people are almost wishing that they'll fail in the hopes that GM's products will prevail. The odds are against those people's hopes. GM didn't turn their business model around in the late 60's for the 70's, they didn't change it around in the late 70's for the 80's, and not in the late 80's for the 90's. Now GM is trying hard to make people think that they're prepared for the future but have yet to show that they are authentically ready for the very long-run. Seriously, what makes you think that this struggling company will magically turn themselves around in the EV generation of vehicles?
        • 6 Years Ago
        User:
        That's quite a chip you have on your shoulder.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Wow, Mr Fisker, you really don't know how to run a design consultancy! What a great start to building client confidence. There are many very good design or engineering consultancies in the world, that we never hear about- for good reason. Clients have to be able to trust these guys! Fisker has an ego problem, with his desperate desire to be a car manufacturer. He's ruining the image of consultants if this proves to be true. He should've decided if he wants to be a consultant, or a manufacturer. Doing both is not easy, people like Lotus, Pininfarina and Porsche have managed it- but 99% of the consultancy work they do is never disclosed- and certainly never stolen! There are also design studios, that you have never heard of and never will- who designed cars you probably drive...
      • 6 Years Ago
      So, basically Tesla is alowed to sue Fisker because of a "substandard design?" Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't design more on the subjective side than the objective? I get that Fisker supposedly stole Tesla technology, but it's not really out of the realm of possibility that Fisker was working on similar technology during the same time Tesla was. I mean, the idea of an electric vehicle has been thrown around for a while, and someone at nearly every automaker has been working on a design.

      Seems to me Tesla got a little greedy and jealous when they snubbed a Fisker design then Fisker had a better one debut. Fisker cars all have a same family look...maybe making a Tesla-fied design was bound to be less appealing. Whether patents were stolen is where this will be decided. Maybe Tesla should put more money into their transmission situation and less into suing over a design contract gone sour.
    • Load More Comments