Auto industry no image

Published on November 20th, 2009 | by Karen Pease

39

Aptera’s Troubles: Get the Full, Inside Story Here

Aptera 2e[Editor's Note: Karen Pease has developed many personal relationships with people inside and out of Aptera over the years. She's been able to get the best picture we've seen so far of the quirky EV manufacturer's troubles from her inside sources. In most cases names and identifying specifics have been withheld at the source's request to protect their livelihood.]

How did a woman who the Securities and Exchange Commission says planned one of the largest accounting frauds in US history end up as Chief Financial Officer of Aptera Motors?

[social_buttons]

It’s just one of many questions swirling around what appears to be a meltdown in progress at the beleaguered manufacturer of safe, hyper-efficient electric vehicles (see the posts here, and here if you don’t know what’s going on).

When a business is running smoothly, there are strong incentives for everyone to be a team player and hide any signs of internal strife. However, as the rate of layoffs and “vacations” has increased over at Aptera, so has the potential for leaks. And sometimes a simple name can take you places you never thought you’d go.

Laura Marion is Aptera’s CFO. By their ‘Team’ webpage, you’d think that her career in finance began at Specialty Vehicle Acquisition Corp. Yet she only started work there in 2007. Where was her “15 years of finance” spent? From her resume, it appears that since 2006, she hasn’t held a single job more than a year.

The reason is that in 2006, Laura Marion was cited by the SEC for her role in one of the largest accounting frauds in US history at Delphi.

Delphi is one of the world’s largest automotive parts manufacturers. According to the SEC complaint, in Q4 2000, employees wrote Marion a handwritten note stating that they had been instructed by a member of senior management to “maximize the financial engineering relating to [precious metals], cores, and batteries.” Over the next several years, Marion edited, reviewed, and drafted documents to present inventory exchanges as sales, grossly overstating the company’s profits. In order to save Delphi’s creditors the cost of litigation and in recognition of Delphi’s cooperation, the SEC settled out of court with those charged. Marion paid a $40,000 fine for her role.

How on Earth did such a person end up as Aptera’s CFO? Two words: Paul Wilbur.


Tags: , , , , , ,


About the Author

Karen is a software developer who spends her spare time developing tools to advance green technologies -- EV charger databases, solar power economics calculators, EV/PHEV simulators, etc. She can be reached by email or by phone: karen@rechargeamerica.net 319-337-8815



  • Carbon Buildup

    Karen,

    And just think, back in, oh, June I think, you dissed a bunch of commentators who were complaining about Aptera because they had reserved cars and were getting the run around. At that time you defended Aptera when – based on their customer’s outcries – you should have been more critical of the company.It is really sad to read about a good company being ruined by arrogant, incompetent management, but this story is also notable because you should have seen it coming.

  • Carbon Buildup

    Karen,

    And just think, back in, oh, June I think, you dissed a bunch of commentators who were complaining about Aptera because they had reserved cars and were getting the run around. At that time you defended Aptera when – based on their customer’s outcries – you should have been more critical of the company.It is really sad to read about a good company being ruined by arrogant, incompetent management, but this story is also notable because you should have seen it coming.

  • Karen Pease

    Quite true. I more than gave them the benefit of the doubt for a long time.

  • David Mustoe

    If you were part of the Detroit establishment and you were worried about their products being seen as badly out dated, what would you do to beat back the threat?

    They seem to have won another battle.

    It would seem that good engineering is only a small part of selling vehicles in America.

  • David Mustoe

    If you were part of the Detroit establishment and you were worried about their products being seen as badly out dated, what would you do to beat back the threat?

    They seem to have won another battle.

    It would seem that good engineering is only a small part of selling vehicles in America.

  • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

    Well-written piece, Karen. I hope to see more information come to light as time passes. Not a story that should be allowed to fade into obscurity.

  • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

    Well-written piece, Karen. I hope to see more information come to light as time passes. Not a story that should be allowed to fade into obscurity.

  • Paul

    Good write up.

    Is there a lesson here for other EV start-ups?

    Who to blame for hiring these losers when their track records are so questionable? Was it the founders who all just got fired or ‘board members’ who are more than likely investor reps who are probably more clueless than the idiots they hired to wreck the company?

    Lets have a roll call and a few interviews with some of the board members who supposedly support the CEOs constant delays!

  • Paul

    Good write up.

    Is there a lesson here for other EV start-ups?

    Who to blame for hiring these losers when their track records are so questionable? Was it the founders who all just got fired or ‘board members’ who are more than likely investor reps who are probably more clueless than the idiots they hired to wreck the company?

    Lets have a roll call and a few interviews with some of the board members who supposedly support the CEOs constant delays!

  • http://www.fixyourthinking.com Rus

    I’ve followed Aptera since almost day 1 very closely. While there is a lot of truth to what your saying here – there’s a lot of incoorect information as well.

    1) Google made a significant investment into Aptera and Jay Leno and others have recently done test drives and reviews.

    2) Ive been in contact with someone at a local automotive research facility and they claim that Detroit is out to murder Aptera as it seems they pose the first credible threat to them beyond Asia. They will not stop at any length … even paying off employees of Aptera to leak false information or not do their job – sabotaging the company.

    3) The state of California needs/wants Aptera to succeed – California is in a mess. It’s bankrupt – it can’t help any business grow at this point. Your story seems to be commentary on California’s economy rather than Aptera’s chances to weather the storm – I mean 2012 – they are facing in CA.

    4) While I appreciate your information regarding CEO’s past lives – it is their past. Apple has been caught in similar SEC problems – it usually means nothing more than hard to follow or understand rules and regulations – and or (and mist likely in Apple and Apteras case) sabotage. Just as Dell, Creative, and Acer would love to see Apple put under – so does GM, Chrysler, and Even Toyota for Aptera. Your story hurts Aptera with negative PR. Your story may become a self fulfilling prophecy if it becomes popular enough.

    5) From my own experience, getting a product to market or even as small as launching a website requires a gradual education and a lot of setbacks. Aptera has made some mistakes that they could have avoided – but I do think they can recover. Good news has been coming their way.

    3)

  • http://www.fixyourthinking.com Rus

    I’ve followed Aptera since almost day 1 very closely. While there is a lot of truth to what your saying here – there’s a lot of incoorect information as well.

    1) Google made a significant investment into Aptera and Jay Leno and others have recently done test drives and reviews.

    2) Ive been in contact with someone at a local automotive research facility and they claim that Detroit is out to murder Aptera as it seems they pose the first credible threat to them beyond Asia. They will not stop at any length … even paying off employees of Aptera to leak false information or not do their job – sabotaging the company.

    3) The state of California needs/wants Aptera to succeed – California is in a mess. It’s bankrupt – it can’t help any business grow at this point. Your story seems to be commentary on California’s economy rather than Aptera’s chances to weather the storm – I mean 2012 – they are facing in CA.

    4) While I appreciate your information regarding CEO’s past lives – it is their past. Apple has been caught in similar SEC problems – it usually means nothing more than hard to follow or understand rules and regulations – and or (and mist likely in Apple and Apteras case) sabotage. Just as Dell, Creative, and Acer would love to see Apple put under – so does GM, Chrysler, and Even Toyota for Aptera. Your story hurts Aptera with negative PR. Your story may become a self fulfilling prophecy if it becomes popular enough.

    5) From my own experience, getting a product to market or even as small as launching a website requires a gradual education and a lot of setbacks. Aptera has made some mistakes that they could have avoided – but I do think they can recover. Good news has been coming their way.

    3)

  • Steve Shurts

    Wow, after reading your article and the comments, I think I agree with Rus – this sounds like a Detroit hatchet job. Why would Aptera, knowingly, bring in a bunch of failed management to take them to production? I have to think that they wouldn’t. It sounds to me like Steve Tambron and Chris Anthony were sold a bill of goods by some slick search firm recruiters – the old Trojan Horse scenario.

    I hope that Tambron and Anthony are somehow able to cease back control. This car needs to be brought to fruition. Only a moron would think that opening windows are the prime reason that anyone would want this car. How sad…

  • Steve Shurts

    Wow, after reading your article and the comments, I think I agree with Rus – this sounds like a Detroit hatchet job. Why would Aptera, knowingly, bring in a bunch of failed management to take them to production? I have to think that they wouldn’t. It sounds to me like Steve Tambron and Chris Anthony were sold a bill of goods by some slick search firm recruiters – the old Trojan Horse scenario.

    I hope that Tambron and Anthony are somehow able to cease back control. This car needs to be brought to fruition. Only a moron would think that opening windows are the prime reason that anyone would want this car. How sad…

  • SLANT i

    Sounds like the slow painful death we all suffered at Saleen, verbatim :( Pathetic…

  • SLANT i

    Sounds like the slow painful death we all suffered at Saleen, verbatim :( Pathetic…

  • http://www.epower-cars.com epower

    Aptera for them is just a toy to play the whole game. if they focus on perfect its workmanship and product performance, then they will suceed. Otherwise, the result is GAME OVER!

  • http://www.epower-cars.com epower

    Aptera for them is just a toy to play the whole game. if they focus on perfect its workmanship and product performance, then they will suceed. Otherwise, the result is GAME OVER!

  • Karen Pease

    SLANT: Knowing what the people from Aptera are going through, I really feel for you.

    Rus:

    “1) Google made a significant investment into Aptera and Jay Leno and others have recently done test drives and reviews.”

    The Google investment was from under the original team — July of 2008. The Jay Leno review was one of the only recent reviews, and it was via a non-production model.

    “2) … They will not stop at any length … even paying off employees of Aptera to leak false information or not do their job – sabotaging the company.”

    I can guarantee you that is not the case here. Unfortunately, I cannot give you more information than that without revealing sources.

    “3) The state of California needs/wants Aptera to succeed – California is in a mess.”

    Yes, they do. Which is yet another element to the tragedy here.

    “Your story seems to be commentary on California’s economy rather than Aptera’s chances to weather the storm – I mean 2012 – they are facing in CA.”

    Fisker, Tesla, and Coda, all California companies, all raised large amounts of money. It has nothing to do with California. Heck, the weak economy in California means cheaper rent and lower salaries. When you leave potential VCs in the dark and don’t even respond to some requests for months, your fundraising efforts are doomed before you start.

    “4) While I appreciate your information regarding CEO’s past lives – it is their past. Apple has been caught in similar SEC problems – it usually means nothing more than hard to follow or understand rules and regulations”

    It’s not a case of “not understanding the rules and regulations”. The SEC says she spent years making bogus documents listing inventory exchanges as sales to artificially inflate their earnings. She did what Enron did. You’re literally excusing Enron’s behavior. That’s unfathomable to me.

    “Your story hurts Aptera with negative PR. Your story may become a self fulfilling prophecy if it becomes popular enough.”

    You know, that’s the issue that’s weighed the hardest on me. If you check into my background, I’ve spent a long, long time actively promoting this company. If you want to know how much I want this vehicle, check out this website of mine:

    http://www.rechargeamerica.net/trip/

    But I have a moral compass, and what’s gone on here is wrong. More wrong than I can even let on because I must protect my sources. And so long as this team is in charge of the company, I have little confidence of the company ever delivering in any relevant quantities. So we’ll likely see one of two things: a reversal of the circumstances that led to the purge, or bankruptcy. Wherein some company will snatch up the wreckage of the company at bargain-basement prices to acquire a pre-made EV company ready to go.

    “Good news has been coming their way.”

    The light at the end of this tunnel is the headlight of an oncoming train.

  • hyo silver

    Nuke Detroit.

  • hyo silver

    Nuke Detroit.

  • hyo silver

    Nuke Detroit.

  • speednut

    Thanks for writing this article! I’m facing similar conflicts whether or not to cancel my pre-order. I’m trying to see how anything good will come out of this situation based on my 20+ years of working in the high-tech industry and all I can see is Aptera going down in flames with the current Board of Directors. The only thing that really communicates to a business is money, so by canceling my reservation along with others would be the only way we can express a vote of “no confidence!” Sorry Steve and Anthony, I loved and believed in what you and your team created, but Aptera as it exists now will never deliver it! So sad!

  • speednut

    Thanks for writing this article! I’m facing similar conflicts whether or not to cancel my pre-order. I’m trying to see how anything good will come out of this situation based on my 20+ years of working in the high-tech industry and all I can see is Aptera going down in flames with the current Board of Directors. The only thing that really communicates to a business is money, so by canceling my reservation along with others would be the only way we can express a vote of “no confidence!” Sorry Steve and Anthony, I loved and believed in what you and your team created, but Aptera as it exists now will never deliver it! So sad!

  • http://EV1.org Doug Korthof

    Aptera started out with a great idea, the serial hybrid, and some very well-qualified technicians and ideologues. It CAN be made to work, the idea was sound; the fact that one GM-Delco-Delphi employee is in a key spot is a sign of trouble.

    For EVs to work, ALL the incompetent nincompoops who ran the oil-fired car industry into bk must be demoted to working the line, sweeeping the floors, and learning the new business. How long with Rick Wagoner or Bob Lutz, or Fritzy, last cleaning urinals? Not long, being failures.

    Putting the same failures in charge of the EV industry means that it won’t work, of course; idiots such as those who wrecked Chrysler are not capable of running a real business or solving real business problems.

  • http://EV1.org Doug Korthof

    Aptera started out with a great idea, the serial hybrid, and some very well-qualified technicians and ideologues. It CAN be made to work, the idea was sound; the fact that one GM-Delco-Delphi employee is in a key spot is a sign of trouble.

    For EVs to work, ALL the incompetent nincompoops who ran the oil-fired car industry into bk must be demoted to working the line, sweeeping the floors, and learning the new business. How long with Rick Wagoner or Bob Lutz, or Fritzy, last cleaning urinals? Not long, being failures.

    Putting the same failures in charge of the EV industry means that it won’t work, of course; idiots such as those who wrecked Chrysler are not capable of running a real business or solving real business problems.

  • http://www.bargainbarn.com Detroiter

    Knowing the executive actions of the PW and MM team from ASC days, their ‘toy box’ approach to niche vehicle development and manufacturing is so off-base it is hard to fathom that their line of song and dance is still being accepted at high salary rates. Please CA don’t reflect on those two as to “how things are done in Detroit” – too many good people get misrepresented by those two clowns.

  • http://www.bargainbarn.com Detroiter

    Knowing the executive actions of the PW and MM team from ASC days, their ‘toy box’ approach to niche vehicle development and manufacturing is so off-base it is hard to fathom that their line of song and dance is still being accepted at high salary rates. Please CA don’t reflect on those two as to “how things are done in Detroit” – too many good people get misrepresented by those two clowns.

  • http://www.bargainbarn.com Detroiter

    Knowing the executive actions of the PW and MM team from ASC days, their ‘toy box’ approach to niche vehicle development and manufacturing is so off-base it is hard to fathom that their line of song and dance is still being accepted at high salary rates. Please CA don’t reflect on those two as to “how things are done in Detroit” – too many good people get misrepresented by those two clowns.

  • Gabriel

    Aptera and the electrical vehicle industry were doomed when Washington bailed out the Big Three, and Wall Street, hotshot CEOs, and “creative accounting” and “financial innovation” destroyed American business and know-how.

  • Gabriel

    Aptera and the electrical vehicle industry were doomed when Washington bailed out the Big Three, and Wall Street, hotshot CEOs, and “creative accounting” and “financial innovation” destroyed American business and know-how.

  • jer

    I put down a deposit a almost a couple years back and just kinda forgot about it. Looks like it’s time to pull it.

    I think you make a really good point. If they can’t write a newsletter then how are they going to produce cars? Not that I even want a newsletter. Just say what you’re going to do and then do it. Just the basics here people.

  • jer

    I put down a deposit a almost a couple years back and just kinda forgot about it. Looks like it’s time to pull it.

    I think you make a really good point. If they can’t write a newsletter then how are they going to produce cars? Not that I even want a newsletter. Just say what you’re going to do and then do it. Just the basics here people.

  • jer

    I put down a deposit a almost a couple years back and just kinda forgot about it. Looks like it’s time to pull it.

    I think you make a really good point. If they can’t write a newsletter then how are they going to produce cars? Not that I even want a newsletter. Just say what you’re going to do and then do it. Just the basics here people.

  • http://gas2.0 william mcgowan

    man this sucks i remember when it was a concept.

    when it came off the bord it was orange and cooly weird.now i fear it,ll go

    the way of the tucker.

    and that folks would suck.

    thanks for the ear.

    william mc gowan

  • Jesus Urias

    It is so sad to see corporate fraud-makers destroy a promising start up so quickly looking only for their personal benefit.

  • Jesus Urias

    It is so sad to see corporate fraud-makers destroy a promising start up so quickly looking only for their personal benefit.

  • Jesus Urias

    It is so sad to see corporate fraud-makers destroy a promising start up so quickly looking only for their personal benefit.

  • John K.

    Exactly, hasn’t anyone heard the story of Tucker?

  • John K.

    Exactly, hasn’t anyone heard the story of Tucker?

Back to Top ↑