Electric car maker Tesla Motors has sued a well-known automotive designer it hired to style the body and interior of its electric-hybrid four-door sedan, after the man announced plans for a competing vehicle.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in San Mateo County Superior Court, accuses designer Henrik Fisker and Bernhard Koehler, the chief operating officer of Fisker's design company Fisker Coachbuild, of fraud, misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of contract during their yearlong effort in 2007 to style the interior and body of the Tesla sedan, called WhiteStar.
The law firm that represents Fisker Coachbuild declined to comment.
Tesla paid Fisker nearly $800,000 and gave him access to its trade secrets, business plan and proprietary engineering data developed during production of its first vehicle, the Tesla Roadster, the suit says.
Tesla accuses Fisker of purposely providing substandard designs for the Tesla sedan -- resulting in a six-month delay of its release to 2010 -- while using Tesla's data and holding back Fisker's best designs for his own vehicle.
After leaving Tesla, Fisker and Koehler announced they were forming Fisker Automotive to put out a four-door hybrid-electric called the Karma.