Well, it was bound to happen...another round of bad news, and suddenly I feel like I'm writing a series on the deflation of clean technology.
Today we received reports that Aptera (which was supposed to begin delivering vehicles before the end of 2008) won't be delivering vehicles until October 2009. Aptera is blaming the delay, basically, on their own short-sightedness. They weren't prepared to deliver the sorts of things car buyers might want...windows that roll down...for example.
Slightly more disturbing is the request for those who have submitted their $500 refundable deposit to convert that to a non-refundable deposit. This will (according to them) let them gauge true demand for the vehicle better. It will also let them spend that money, which is currently being held in escrow.
They also, of course, cited the economic climate for their lack of ability to meet their goals more quickly, but that seems somewhat secondary to me. Aptera will be producing a few units for internal testing between now and October, but won't be letting any of them into buyers hands.
To me, October still seems like an ambitious goal, and I hope that Aptera's ambitious goals won't come back to bite them (in the form of skeptical buyers asking for their deposits back.)
Full email from Aptera is available below.
Dear Aptera Family Member,
By now you are likely aware that there are changes happening daily at Aptera. As one of our most loyal supporters and part of the early foundation of our future, we want to update you about some vital issues, including when your vehicle will be available.
Our most recent corporate commitment was that we would deliver the first production Typ-1, now known as the 2e, by the close of 2008. Despite our well-intentioned efforts, we were unable to complete that vehicle before the close of the year, so it's now slated for January 16. However, unlike prior plans, this vehicle will not be delivered to a retail customer. We will continue our builds but at a much slower rate starting with a small test fleet of the enhanced vehicles, then moving to our volume production launch on October 1, 2009.
For months we have been receiving important feedback from you, our depositor community, and we have come to realize there were flaws in our initial product assumptions -- specifically as it pertains to satisfying the needs of real-world consumers. Our greatest degree of learning came just a few months ago when we asked all of you to participate in a brief survey. This critical piece of research requested insights about your expectations for our company and our products, and we discovered a notable disconnect between our product plan and realistic expectations. Some modifications had to be made. For example, you helped us realize that some trade-offs for convenience (like being able to grab a burger in a drive-thru) might be necessary to make the ownership experience more palatable, even if it cost us a couple tenths of a point on our drag coefficient.
To navigate us through this process, we recruited a team of seasoned professionals from the automotive industry and the California tech sector. With a complete management team operating on one accord, we are now in a better position to resolve all of the fundamental product usage questions that have been brought to our attention by our initial depositors.
As we move closer to volume production in the face of this challenged economy, it becomes increasingly important for us to accurately forecast our first year's production volume. To date, we have tried to provide the greatest flexibility possible by maintaining all deposits as fully refundable, and now it has become equally important for Aptera to properly model our operations to meet demand. To address this issue, we have created a proposition, known as "Lock-in," to reward your commitment to this point and in the future. Lock-in allows you to voluntarily convert your deposit from refundable to a firm, non-refundable one and receive an addition $250 credit towards the purchase of your Aptera vehicle. In other words, we will give you an additional 50% return on your money for sticking with us and taking the extra step.
The Lock-in program is completely voluntary and no depositor will be penalized for electing not to participate, but only those who opt into the program will be eligible for the additional credit. As always, your deposit money will remain in escrow until you move to transact the purchase of your vehicle, which is when any and all credits will be applied. Aptera is not, and has no intention of using your deposit money to fund the company. We are prudently trying to plan our volume and capacity to assure we do not introduce waste into our system that could lead us down the unenviable path of some of our industry predecessors. And who knows, maybe Wall Street will see us as a role model for offering these types of returns on investments.
Our combination of automotive industry experience paired with the pervasive "why-not" attitude of the California entrepreneurial set will continue to make Aptera more effective in every aspect of our business. Our new team is teaching us fresh ways to listen to you and translate your comments and needs into the product, so here's our pledge: "We will manufacture the most efficient vehicle on the road and continue to apply the input we receive from our consumer." As we fly in the face of this challenged economy and write a new page in transportation history, we simply can't afford to cut corners. We are going to do what it takes to get it right, and we cannot get there without your help and continued support. You have stood with us faithfully and we promise that our vehicles will be worth the wait.
We look forward to sharing our dream with you as Aptera introduces the world to the most energy efficient solution for personal mobility.
Thank you for your support,
The Aptera Team
Aptera Motors 2008
written by Steven, January 08, 2009
written by Bill Martin, January 08, 2009
written by Yura, January 09, 2009
written by Tomas, January 10, 2009
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