Aptera Changes Its Chief

Aptera, maker of the swoopy, three-wheeled Typ-1 electric car, announced this week that it’s hired Paul Wilbur as their new president and CEO, replacing founder Steve Fambro in the top slot.

Given the turmoil that prompted electric car startup Tesla to change its leadership, was this another sign of a clash of egos, of disgruntled execs? Did investors with ownership force out Fambro? The company is backed by Google, Idealab, Esenjay Investments, The Simons Family and The Beall Family Trust.

In this case, it appears to be a logical step for a small startup moving into the next stage of production. So let’s take a look at Mr. Wilbur’s resume:

He has 26 years of experience, ranging from product planning and finance to marketing and product development for leading car companies. These are skills that a new company, especially one with an unconventional and groundbreaking product like the Typ-1, are going to need at this point in their development. He’s worked for Ford and Chrysler, and most recently he was the president and CEO of American Specialty Cars, then of Saleen, makers of some very, fast-high performance cars.

So Wilbur has lots of industry cred and real-world experience directing car companies. He also, according to the press release and media reports, has the former CEO Fambro’s full support; Fambro called his “hands-on style and wide-ranging automotive experience” “invaluable” for the transition to manufacturing and distribution. Fambro tells the LA Times that running a company of 50 employees was never his plan, and that headhunters Heidrick & Struggles were hired to start a CEO search in March.

Anybody can design and build one car, but it takes someone with real-world industry experience to oversee the successful manufacturing of a car in quantity. That’s the juncture at which Aptera now finds itself. Fambro and company have made a stunning-looking, eco-friendly car, now they have to bring it to market — and they have promised to start producing before the end of the year. Wilbur had better get cracking.