Karma Automotive LLC has tapped a new CEO to replace Lance Zhou, who stepped down from his post at the end of 2021.
The Irvine-based luxury electric vehicle maker confirmed to the Business Journal that the new top executive is Jeff Wawrzyniak, a legal executive who previously counted the chief administrative officer title at the company, after stints with other automotive firms.
Wawrzyniak also previously served as chief legal officer for Wanxiang America Corp., the U.S. automotive components subsidiary of China-based Wanxiang Group Corp., Karma’s parent company.
Karma Automotive was formed out of the assets of Fisker Automotive, the maker of a luxury hybrid vehicle known as the Fisker Karma. The company went bankrupt in 2013 after it was unable to pay back a large government loan; its assets were sold to Wanxiang, which renamed the company Karma Automotive.
Fisker Automotive was headed by Henrik Fisker, who in 2016 founded his next EV venture: Fisker Inc. (NYSE: FSR).
Karma Automotive is OC’s fifth-largest automaker with 350 employees and about 400 vehicle sales in the U.S. in the year ending June 2022, according to the Business Journal’s latest ranking. Wawrzyniak’s title was listed as chief administrative officer at the time, when he was named as the EV maker’s top exec.
Wawrzyniak’s position as CEO was not disclosed in company press releases until last month.
Zhou had held the CEO post since 2017, when he replaced Thomas Corcoran. Zhou was previously CEO and president of Beijing Foton-Daimler Automotive.
Anaheim’s Phoenix Motor Inc., a maker of electric-powered passenger vans, school buses and heavy-duty pickup trucks, last year hired Zhou as CEO. Phoenix Motor (Nasdaq: PEV) went public last year and counted a valuation of about $35 million as of last week.
Wawrzyniak has held legal executive roles with Brake Parts Inc. and Cardone Industries, which bills itself as the largest automotive parts remanufacturer in the world with nearly $1 billion in revenue.
Karma is currently building out a network of commercial electrification partners around the U.S.
It announced late last month it would partner with EV company B–ON to produce its fully electric delivery truck vehicles at Karma’s 555,000-square-foot Innovation and Customization Center in Moreno Valley.
Karma’s facility has the capacity to produce up to 30,000 vehicles annually with pre-production starting in July.
“It’s abundantly clear to us at Karma that the market for electric commercial vehicles is poised for rapid growth,” Wawrzyniak said in a statement.
B–ON typically builds its commercial vehicles in Germany; the California facility allows room for increased production while also addressing “the booming North and South American markets,” founder, Chairman and CEO Stefan Krause said in a statement.
“B–ON’s product is a proven winner in this market, and we are proud to be partnering with B-ON to be the exclusive manufacturer in North America of their last mile delivery vehicles,” Wawrzyniak added.
The news comes a couple months after Karma delivered its first commercial EVs to Los Angeles International Airport.
The Irvine luxury EV maker provided LAX a three-vehicle fleet of electric shuttles designed to transport customers of QuikPark, the airport’s parking service, from the parking lot to their terminals.
Karma officials said they expect to deliver 1,000 to 2,000 retrofitted EV shuttles by next year.