Image Credits: Haje Kamps for TechCrunch
On Thursday, the company said that board member Chris Dawson will step in as CEO, replacing interim CEO Jesse Fittipaldi. Arcimoto added that Fittipaldi will stick around as president and report to Dawson going forward.
Two executives also recently left the company — former chief financial officer Doug Campoli and former chief experience officer Lynn Yeager. Plus, Arcimoto’s product head Dwayne Lum is now the company’s chief operating officer.
An Arcimoto staffer since 2015, Fittipaldi assumed the interim role in August, weeks after police reportedly slapped Arcimoto founder and former CEO Mark Frohnmayer with a DUI citation, according to Oregon news outlet the Register-Guard. Around this time, Dawson joined the startup’s board.
Who is Chris Dawson?
Arcimoto said in a statement that its incoming CEO “most recently served as the Chief Executive Officer of Nikola Tesla Co.” Crucially, “Nikola Tesla Co.” is not associated with Nikola Corporation or Tesla Inc.
Complicating matters (at least for this reporter), Arcimoto said that Dawson also spent five years at Tesla (the Musk one) working on “battery production, the Model S/X line and Model 3 general assembly.”
In a call with TechCrunch, Dawson said he “was a big Nikola Tesla fan” growing up. When I explained that I was puzzled by the name’s similarity to the aforementioned EV companies, Dawson said, “You’re right that it is confusing.”
He added, “Every other day, I’ve got to kind of correct somebody as to my level of engagement with Tesla, because what also makes it confusing is that I spent a long period of time with Tesla.” I reached out to Tesla Inc. for more information, but I doubt I’ll hear back, given the dissolution of its media team.
Arcimoto’s press release described Nikola Tesla Co. as an “engineering services company with projects that include electrification, hybridization, EV charging, hydrogen powertrain development, hydrogen powered VTOL, hydrogen power systems, fuel cell and hydrogen electrolyzer development.”
Dawson said the Texas-based corporation does consultancy work, but added that “we’re really more of a hands-on type organization.” According to the Dawson, Nikola Tesla Co.’s clients included a drone company called Tesla Aerial Robotics and the Department of Defense.
Asked for more details on his connection with the DoD, Dawson said, “I can’t go into a lot of detail, but generally, it is electrification, hybridization of current tactical equipment that is on the battlefield, as these different DoD organizations try to transition both to green more sustainable solutions, but also better.” TechCrunch reached out to the DoD for confirmation and will update this story when we hear back.
What’s next for Arcimoto?
Arcimoto ended 2022 with less than half a million dollars in cash on hand, warning investors in its annual report that it had “substantial doubt about [its] ability to continue” operating. Yet, earlier this year, the firm secured $18 million in additional funds via two separate raises, and said it would start shipping new EVs in March.
According to Dawson, Arcimoto is now producing new vehicles every single week. He said the company cut costs over the past several months by laying off or ending contracts with about 200 people. The company has about 110 people on staff today, added Dawson.
The incoming CEO told TechCrunch, “We believe, toward the end of the year, that we’ll be able to be — at a product level — profitable. And those pieces are really the bones that we need to move this forward.”
Asked about future products, Dawson said Arcimoto is focused on its existing vehicles, which include its consumer-focused Fun Utility Vehicle and a delivery-focused version called the Deliverator.