Fisker stresses engineering firm developing its low-cost electric truck and minivan, lawsuit alleges

Image credits: FREDERICK J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Henrik Fisker I stood on stage Last August, he proudly debuted two prototypes designed to push his namesake electric vehicle startup Fisker into the mainstream. There was the Pear, a low-cost electric vehicle for the masses, and the Alaska, Fisker’s entry into the hot pickup truck market.

In the weeks that followed, Fisker stopped paying the engineering firm that helped develop those vehicles, according to a previously unreported lawsuit filed in federal court this week. The company, a US subsidiary of German engineering giant Bertrandt AG, also accuses Fisker of illegally retaining intellectual property associated with those vehicles. He is seeking compensation of $13 million.

The lawsuit adds to the pile of legal problems facing Fisker, which is on the brink of bankruptcy. At least 30 lawsuits have been filed alleging lemon law violations, a few of which Fisker has already settled. A former manager has filed a proposed class action to claim unpaid wages. A textile supplier also sued Fisker for more than $1 million, which it claimed the electric car startup never paid.

The engineering lawsuit stands out amid the legal troubles because it suggests that financial cracks were already forming within Fisker last August despite bold claims made by its CEO at that point.

“Bertrandt’s lawsuit is baseless,” Matthew DeBord, vice president of communications at Fisker, said in an email to TechCrunch. “It is a legally baseless and disappointing attempt by what has been a valued partner to extort Fisker payments and intellectual property to which Bertrandt is not entitled under the relevant agreements or otherwise.” He declined to comment on other cases.

Bertrandt says in: complaint It filed in Michigan Eastern District Court that it entered into a “design and development agreement” with Fisker in May 2022 to perform “engineering, design and development services” on the Pear — a contract worth $35 million, according to a copy of the design and development agreement attached to the lawsuit. (The agreement also shows that Fisker had previously hired Bertrandt to conduct a feasibility study, cost analysis, timing proposal and other elements for the Pear EV.)

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At some point after the agreement, Bertrandt says Fisker asked it to do similar work for the Alaska pickup truck. Bertrandt says in the complaint that a formal written agreement with Fisker for Alaska was never executed, but that it presented a $1.66 million offer that Fisker agreed to pay.

Fisker stopped paying Bertrandt at the end of August 2023, according to the complaint. The company continued to go unpaid on invoices through January 31, 2024, bringing the total unpaid invoices to $7,061,443. The engineering company also claims that Fisker’s decision to halt development work on the Pear and Alaska EVs is a further breach of contract because it caused Bertrandt to suffer delay costs.

Bertrandt says he had a meeting with Fisker on February 6, 2024 where the EV startup “acknowledged its responsibility to pay these bills and agreed to immediately make $3,685,000 as partial payment” — but then never made that payment.

According to Bertrandt, the breach of contract cost the engineering company an additional $5,858,000 in “lost profits, delay costs, and incidental damages,” which is why it is seeking total damages of $12,919,443.

Furthermore, the company says it required Fisker on April 22 to “return all intellectual property rights to Bertrandt” and “certify in writing that Fisker did not retain any paper or electronic copies,” and claims the electric vehicle startup “failed to do so as well.” . “.

“Fisker has been unjustly enriched at Bertrandt’s expense,” the company’s lawyers wrote in the complaint.

Bertrandt is not the only supplier to sue Fisker so far.

Georgia-based Corinthian Textiles Company File a lawsuit against Fisker in Los Angeles Superior Court in early April. The supplier claims to have entered into an agreement with the EV startup in early 2023 to supply it with “products intended for use in Fisker vehicles.” It did not specify the products it made for Fisker, but rather the company’s website He says Its automotive division specializes in floor mats, trunk and cargo mats, as well as “car carpets”.

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Fisker “refused, and continued,” Corinthian says[s] To “refuse” to pay bills and other fees in the amount of $1,077,571.75.

Extra work

Days before Bertrandt was sued in federal court, Robert Lee, an employee who worked for Fisker from October 2023 to March 5, 2024, filed a lawsuit Proposed class action A complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges a pattern of employees being overworked and not adequately compensated. The lawsuit also alleges that Fisker failed to reimburse expenses and pay wages owed when employees parted ways with the company.

Lee claims that he and other hourly employees worked “significantly more” than the eight-hour days and 40-hour weeks, and instead often worked more than 12 hours per day. He claims they were “often forced” to work on weekends. Fisker did not compensate employees for that extra time, according to the complaint. Lee also claims that Fisker failed to properly track hours worked, and even deducted commissions from their hourly wages.

He claims that employees were “regularly forced to work outside working hours and… [Fisker Inc] Established a policy to calculate working hours less than the actual total hours worked” in order to “achieve certain goals and generate more sales.”

Lee also alleges that Fisker “effectively coerced and pressured its non-exempt employees to work[f]- Clock, deduct their wages, miscalculate their wages, shorten (equivalent to a missed meal period) or forego meal and rest periods (or fail to pay for their rest periods).

Lemon

Fisker began getting hit with lawsuits in California alleging it violated the state’s lemon law as early as last November, TechCrunch previously reported. The company has begun settling some of those earlier lawsuits in what roughly amounts to a vehicle buyback, according to court filings and a person familiar with the settlements.

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More lemon law lawsuits continued to flow through the state, as Fisker delivered the bulk of its vehicles in the United States.

Customers may have taken action in other states where Fisker has delivered cars, such as New York, Florida and Massachusetts. Those states require lemon law disputes to be conducted through arbitration, making it difficult to know how many actions may be pending against the company.

In its most recent 2023 annual filing, Fisker noted that it was still defending against a proposed class action from shareholders alleging violations of securities laws. Fisker then goes on to say ambiguously that “[v]There are other legal actions, claims and proceedings pending against the Company, including, without limitation, matters arising from alleged product defects; Employment matters; Product warranties; and consumer protection laws.”

She also implied that she had been contacted by unnamed government agencies for information about her business, including subpoenas, in a new line of text that she had never included in any of her previous SEC filings.

“The Company also receives from time to time subpoenas and other inquiries or requests for information from agencies or other representatives of the U.S. federal, state, and foreign governments,” the company wrote. DeBord, vice president of communications, told TechCrunch that Fisker “currently [has] There are no outstanding subpoenas from governments.

Correction: The article incorrectly identified Robert Lee as Fisker’s former director of technical services. Lee, who filed the lawsuit, is an employee who worked for Fisker from October 2023 to March 5, 2024. The article has been corrected.



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