The founder of the new car brand Fisker comments on how they worked with software when they developed their completely new car Ocean in 2.5 years.
February 3, 2023
To challenge the general consensus of 4.5 years to develop a car
The EV market is booming and at the Stockholm exhibition eCar, several new models are being introduced. Henrik Fisker stands out when launching their new model Ocean in multiple ways. The car is said to be emission-free, built by Magna in Austria. At the Sweden premiere, Henrik Fisker speaks mostly about sustainability, the competitive market price as well as new features like the “California mode”, which enables a feeling of a convertible and the solar roof battery charging when the car is powered down. But what really got us interested at RemotiveLabs was to hear his take on software engineering (as we are all about speed and efficient development) – so we asked:
How did you develop the HW and SWin a time span that is significantly shorter than what is common?
Henrik Fisker: We don’t want to give away too much but a lot of it comes from simultaneous engineering and design. I come from the traditional car industry, BMW and Ford, and in traditional automotive, you tend to do things in stages whereas we did a lot simultaneously. Traditional car companies have over the last 50 years silently agreed that it takes 4.5 years to develop a car. And then they agreed to this with all the big suppliers too. When we started to talk to suppliers, we always came with our plan of doing it in 2.5 years. We were able to convince Magna, which obviously became a big supplier to us, and then we also had to convince all other suppliers that they had to follow our process too.
Another important aspect in development speed is our decision-making, this normally can take 3 months while we take most decisions “in the now”. Sometimes we need a week but we really try hard not to delay anything by slow decisions. We have also moved away from the traditional setup of presenting to management with three things and they pick one. Most of the time the engineers know that two of the ideas are useless anyway. We don’t spend time looking at useless ideas and that is a change in mentality.
Furthermore, we have slightly more than half of our engineers in software, and out of the +800 people employed, most are engineers. This is a differentiator from the traditional car companies as well to have +50% of the engineers in software. We have pure software centers in India and San Francisco for software development. I’m not a software specialist but what we have done is that we have moved away from the mindset that we develop a car with a computer inside to a computer on wheels, which means that everything is controlled by software. Therefore, it becomes more and more important to understand software and the people that can develop good software because otherwise, you don’t control your car – you are giving that to other suppliers.