Rift Reported Between Founders and Board at Futuristic Carmaker Aptera

Paul Wilbur, a Detroit auto industry veteran who was named CEO of Carlsbad, CA-based Aptera 14 months ago, gave no indication of internal turmoil at the futuristic car’s headquarters when he appeared last week at an event sponsored by Cleantech San Diego.

But as Darryl Siry reports today on Wired’s Autotopia blog, a prolonged power struggle that pitted Aptera founders Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony against Wilbur and Aptera board members apparently came to a head in recent weeks. Wired says rumors about the founders’ departure, as well as layoffs amid financial difficulties, began appearing last week on the Aptera Forum, an online message board for Aptera car enthusiasts. Aptera did not immediately respond to an e-mail query seeking the company’s response to the reports. According to Wired, the company says it’s slowing down its burn rate while waiting for the Department of Energy to review its loan application, and maintains that its relationship with Fambro and Anthony remains positive.

Fambro, who founded Aptera about six years ago, has previously said his aim with the company was to build a safe and comfortable passenger vehicle that was more fuel-efficient than anything else on the road. The company says the prototype of its aerodynamic pod-shaped, three-wheel vehicle gets 230 miles to the gallon.

Aptera raised about $24 million roughly 18 months ago from investors that include Google and Idealab. CEO Wilbur told me last year that the company was having no trouble attracting additional funding, but the Wired blog reports that additional funding has in fact been difficult to secure during a drawn-out battle over which course the company should be steering.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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