Product delays from startup companies should come as no surprise, especially from those aspiring to build green cars. The latest is California based Aptera who is developing a tear drop-shaped, two-seat three-wheeler. The company had originally promised to start delivering the electric 2e by the end of 2008. Unfortunately, that first "production intent" example is still at least a week away from completion and, according to an email sent to people who had put down $500 refundable deposits, that vehicle will stay within the company. In fact, Aptera will be slowly building vehicles until at least October before it ships any to customers.
The reason is because in recent months the company has made a couple minor changes at customers' behest. You know, little things like switching the car's layout from driving the single rear wheel to the two front wheels. That and adding a roll down section to the windows so you can hit the drive through window without opening the door. In order to get a handle on real demand, the company is also offering people the chance to convert their deposits to non-refundable status, which will also get them an extra $250 off the final price. Check out the whole email received by those customers after the jump. Hat tip to aptera buyer!
Gallery: Aptera 2e
Dear Aptera Family Member,
By now you are likely aware that there are changes happening daily at Aptera. As one of our most loyal supporters and part of the early foundation of our future, we want to update you about some vital issues, including when your vehicle will be available.
Our most recent corporate commitment was that we would deliver the first production Typ-1, now known as the 2e, by the close of 2008. Despite our well-intentioned efforts, we were unable to complete that vehicle before the close of the year, so it's now slated for January 16. However, unlike prior plans, this vehicle will not be delivered to a retail customer. We will continue our builds but at a much slower rate starting with a small test fleet of the enhanced vehicles, then moving to our volume production launch on October 1, 2009.
For months we have been receiving important feedback from you, our depositor community, and we have come to realize there were flaws in our initial product assumptions -- specifically as it pertains to satisfying the needs of real-world consumers. Our greatest degree of learning came just a few months ago when we asked all of you to participate in a brief survey. This critical piece of research requested insights about your expectations for our company and our products, and we discovered a notable disconnect between our product plan and realistic expectations. Some modifications had to be made. For example, you helped us realize that some trade-offs for convenience (like being able to grab a burger in a drive-thru) might be necessary to make the ownership experience more palatable, even if it cost us a couple tenths of a point on our drag coefficient.
To navigate us through this process, we recruited a team of seasoned professionals from the automotive industry and the California tech sector. With a complete management team operating on one accord, we are now in a better position to resolve all of the fundamental product usage questions that have been brought to our attention by our initial depositors.
As we move closer to volume production in the face of this challenged economy, it becomes increasingly important for us to accurately forecast our first year's production volume. To date, we have tried to provide the greatest flexibility possible by maintaining all deposits as fully refundable, and now it has become equally important for Aptera to properly model our operations to meet demand. To address this issue, we have created a proposition, known as "Lock-in," to reward your commitment to this point and in the future. Lock-in allows you to voluntarily convert your deposit from refundable to a firm, non-refundable one and receive an addition $250 credit towards the purchase of your Aptera vehicle. In other words, we will give you an additional 50% return on your money for sticking with us and taking the extra step.
The Lock-in program is completely voluntary and no depositor will be penalized for electing not to participate, but only those who opt into the program will be eligible for the additional credit. As always, your deposit money will remain in escrow until you move to transact the purchase of your vehicle, which is when any and all credits will be applied. Aptera is not, and has no intention of using your deposit money to fund the company. We are prudently trying to plan our volume and capacity to assure we do not introduce waste into our system that could lead us down the unenviable path of some of our industry predecessors. And who knows, maybe Wall Street will see us as a role model for offering these types of returns on investments.
To participate in the Lock-in program, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, reservation number and the simple message, "I would like to Lock-in". You will receive a confirmation email, and your name and reservation will be added to the credit list. It is that simple.
Our combination of automotive industry experience paired with the pervasive "why-not" attitude of the California entrepreneurial set will continue to make Aptera more effective in every aspect of our business. Our new team is teaching us fresh ways to listen to you and translate your comments and needs into the product, so here's our pledge: "We will manufacture the most efficient vehicle on the road and continue to apply the input we receive from our consumer." As we fly in the face of this challenged economy and write a new page in transportation history, we simply can't afford to cut corners. We are going to do what it takes to get it right, and we cannot get there without your help and continued support. You have stood with us faithfully and we promise that our vehicles will be worth the wait.
We look forward to sharing our dream with you as Aptera introduces the world to the most energy efficient solution for personal mobility.
Thank you for your support,
The Aptera Team
Aptera Motors 2008