Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Founder, Executive Chairman Fisker Automotive Quits

Henrik Fisker
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Henrik Fisker, the founder and Executive Chairman of Fisker Automotive, told CNBC he is leaving the company due to differences with the company's current leadership.

"There are a lot of issues and differences I have with this company and the management team right now," Fisker said. "This is the best move for me right now."

Fisker leaves at a tumultuous time for the electric car company that has struggled with slow sales and a lack of liquidity. The company's first model, the extended range electric Karma, has been criticized as being too heavy and too inefficient. Since the Karma went on sale in 2011, Fisker Automotive has sold fewer than 2,000 models. The Fisker Karma sells for more than $100,000.

DOE Loan Troubles

Under Henrik Fisker's leadership, Fisker Automotive was granted a $529 Million loan from the Department of Energy in September of 2009. It was hailed by environmentalists as an example of the government working with the auto industry to help develop electric cars and revive America's auto industry. After all, Fisker planned to eventually build cars at a former General Motors assembly plant in Delaware. That never happened. Instead, Fisker built the Karma in Finland saying there were no assembly plants in the U.S. that could build the luxury electric car on a contract basis.

(Read More: Car Buyers Taking Out Bigger Loans, Set New Record)

A Fisker electric car displayed at the Geneva Motor Show in March.
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The decision ignited a firestorm of controversy as critics blasted Fisker and the Obama Administration for using federal money to fund auto manufacturing in Europe. For a while, the Fisker DOE loan became a central point of the U.S. race for President as Republican nominee Mitt Romney blasted President Obama for lending federal money to a company that was struggling and building cars in Finland.

(Read More: Behind the Wheel, Putting the Tesla to the Test)

In 2011, the DOE suspended the Fisker Automotive line of credit after loaning the company $190 million of the $529 million the company was authorized to receive.

Karma snakebite

Meanwhile, as Fisker tried to get its finances in order, its launch model seemed to constantly be in the news for having problems. In 2011, the EPA rated the high priced EV as delivering the equivalent of 52 MPG, and an all-electric range of just 32 miles.

The results were well below what Fisker had promised and what auto enthusiasts expected. Early last year, the $107,000 Karma model Consumer Reports bought and was test driving stalled during its initial drive and had to be towed to a service center. Pictures of the Karma being loaded onto a flatbed tow truck became an embarrassing symbol of Karma problems.

(Read More: Here's Why More People Drive Alone, Despite High Gas Prices)

Finally, during Hurricane Sandy last year, Fisker lost 300 new Karma models that were damaged in the storm. An estimated $30 Million dollars in vehicles lost at a time when Fisker was struggling to get models into showrooms and into the hands of potential buyers.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau; Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

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