Fisker to counterfile against Tesla Motors

Fisker Automotive plans to file for arbitration in an attempt to derail its electric-car rival's suit over trade secrets. Founder Henrik Fisker calls the suit "sour grapes."

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read

NEW YORK--Fisker Automotive intends to file for arbitration on Tuesday in a legal counterattack to a suit filed against it by Tesla Motors over allegedly stolen trade secrets.

Henrik Fisker told CNET News.com that the filing will seek to have the Tesla suit derailed because it was filed in San Mateo, Calif., which would be a breach of contract.

Fisker Automotive will seek to move the case to Orange County, Calif., and detail the flaws in Tesla's legal case. He spoke here at the CleanTech Conference put on by Merriman, Curhan, and Ford.

Fisker Automotive CEO Henrik Fisker dismissed Tesla's suit as "ridiculous." Martin LaMonica/CNET News.com

Last month, Tesla sued Fisker Automotive, alleging that Henrik Fisker's design company, Fisker Coachbuild, stole Tesla technology when it did design work on a planned Tesla all-electric sedan.

In the suit, Tesla alleges that Fisker and Bernhard Koehler, Fisker Coachbuild's chief operating officer, accepted the contract "to gain access to confidential design information and trade secrets, then announced a competing vehicle."

On Tuesday, Fisker dismissed the suit as "ridiculous" and said it was a public-relations ploy aimed at obscuring the production delays Tesla is having due to design and technical issues.

In its filing on Tuesday, Fisker Automotive will detail some of the problems that Tesla has gone through in trying to get its electric luxury sports car and a planned sedan to market.

"The suit is ridiculous. First of all, why would I design a car that's purposely bad? It'd be bad for my reputation," Fisker said.

During his work with Tesla, Fisker said Tesla changed the design and packaging, which caused complications. Some changes came after Elon Musk took over from ousted CEO Martin Eberhard, who had previously been the contact with Fisker Coachbuild, Fisker explained. The changes "morphed" the entire concept of the car, he said.

After Tesla employees saw Fisker Automotive show off its own plug-in hybrid car at the North American International Auto Show in January, it started the process of seeking legal action, Fisker said.

"It's just sour grapes. That's all I can make out of it," Fisker said.

A representative from Tesla was not immediately available.

Separately, Fisker said his company is on track to deliver its $80,000 plug-in hybrid luxury sedan at the end of next year. It will run about 50 miles on a battery and have a gasoline engine that will charge the battery for longer trips.

Within five years, he anticipates that the company will sell a version that will cost about $40,000. It will still be a luxury sports sedan. But the lower price will be enabled by advances in battery technology, he said.