Oh, what a difference a year can make. Last March, startup Aptera Motors said it had collected deposits from “more than 4,000 Californians,” each of them paying $500 (fully refundable) or $750 (“locked in”) to reserve one of the company planned plug-in vehicles. At the time, the all-electric 2e model was scheduled to enter production by the end of 2009. But Aptera has had to hit the brakes on that production schedule, and according to the transcript of a recent online “town hall” meeting with Aptera’s marketing team and some of its “supporters and depositors,” (H/T Green Car Reports), Aptera now says it has “roughly 3,100 deposits between the 2e and the 2h.” It’s hard to say how much those figures have been rounded, but the number of deposits has clearly dropped significantly.
It’s not entirely surprising that Aptera might see some would-be early adopters of plug-in vehicles slipping in their commitment to the futuristic looking models promised by a startup on shaky financial footing. In its short history, one of Aptera’s biggest assets — aside from deep-pocketed backers — has been its enthusiastic core of supporters. But the longer Aptera’s model is delayed, the more options those eager EV buyers will have in the marketplace from companies such as Nissan (s NSANY) and General Motors (s GM), among others.
Aptera CEO Paul Wilbur has explained in recent months that “production and delivery will be tied directly to funding.” According to a November 2009 release, development efforts at the startup have “been outpacing the rate of fundraising,” and dwindling cash reserves forced the company to delay production of the 2e until 2010 (Aptera said in the town hall chat that it aims to launch production of the plug-in hybrid 2h 9-12 months after the electric model).
Hitting the new 2010 target, or any future production goals, and delivering vehicles to those 3,100 hopeful customers, will require Aptera to bring in fresh capital, and it’s banking on either a federal loan or private investment to come through. The company plans to provide more details about its status and future plans next month. We’ll be tuned in.