이스라엘 전기 자동차 제조사인인 베터 플레이스의 파산과 몰락이 관련 업계에서 큰 이슈가 되고 있다. 2007년에 설립된 이스라엘 대표 기술기반 벤처회사로 통했던 전기자동차 플랫폼 베터 플레이스(창업주이자 전 CEO : Shai Agassi, 68년생, 이스라엘)가 27일 매출 부진과 과도한 비용을 감당하지 못하고 파산 신청을 한 것이다. 베터 플레이스는 "A WORLD WITHOUT GAS"라는 모토를 내세워 고객이 자동차를 구입한 후 전국 곳곳에 설치된 충전소에서 전기 배터리가 떨어지기 전에 교체할 수 있도록 기획, 개발됐다. (위 베터 플레이스 충전소 참고)
위의 비전과 이스라엘 정부, 재벌의 지지를 받았던 베터 플레이스는 최근 2년전까지 이단 오퍼(이스라엘의 억만장자인)를 비롯해 제너럴일렉트릭(GE), HSBC홀딩스 등으로부터 8억5000만달러(약 9600억원)를 투자받았으며, 당시 회사 가치는 2조 5천억원에 육박했다.
하지만 대규모 투자금 유치에도 불구하고, 이번 파산의 주요 원인은 전기 자동차의 판매 부진에 있다고 회사측은 설명했다. "it was clear to us that … wider public take up would not be sufficient and that the support from car producers was not forthcoming.” 전기자동차 상용화 어려움의 가장 큰 원인은 '배터리 충전'을 할 마땅한 곳이 많지 않다는 것이다. 이에 베터 플레이스는 투자받은 돈의 상당수를 곳곳에 전기 충선소를 설치함으로써 해결하고자 했으나, 그 동안 판매된 전기자동차수는 1,000대에 불과했다.
이번 파산 소식과 빗대 향후 텔사의 전기 자동차 도전이 어떻게 전개될지 귀추가 주목되고 있다. 누구나 생각하고 기대하는 전기자동차 시대에 적절한 타이밍과 가격으로 이 시장을 누가 선도할지 기대가 된다.
작년 9월 광화문 올레스퀘어에서 개최된 행사에서 베터 플레이스 임원이 강연자로 나서 회사의 비전과 전략에 대해 공유한 바 있다. (이렇게 파산할 줄 몰랐지만, 관련 비석세스 기사 바로가기).
(참고) 아래는 베터 플레이스에서 배포한 보도자료 전문이다.
Better Place Files Court Motion in Israel for Appointment of a Temporary Liquidator
Tel Aviv, May 26, 2013; Better Place announces that it has filed a motion with the Lod District Court today to ask for the dissolution of the company and the appointment of a temporary liquidator. In its motion the company stated that in light of its failure to raise additional funds and in the absence of sufficient resources for the continued operation of the business, the company is asking for the court's assistance in protecting the rights of its employees, customers and creditors.
Over the past six months, Better Place's management has made fundamental changes in the company, focused its strategy, goals and markets and at the same time has continued to seek additional financing for the business and secure additional models to supplement its current offer.
Despite significant efforts over that time frame, revenues are still insufficient to cover operating costs, and in the light of the continued negative cash flow position, the Board has decided that it has no option but to seek to make this application to the Courts for an orderly liquidation of the company.
The company's Board of Directors said: ""This is a very sad day for all of us. We stand by the original vision as formulated by Shai Agassi of creating a green alternative that would lessen our dependence on highly polluting transportation technologies. While he was able with partners and investors to overcome multiple challenges to demonstrate that it was possible to deliver a technological solution that would fulfil that vision. Unfortunately, the path to realizing that vision was difficult, complex and littered with obstacles, not all of which we were able to overcome. The technical challenges we overcame successfully, but the other obstacles we were not able to overcome, despite the massive effort and resources that were deployed to that end."
The most important thing of all was that the intention was the right one. The purpose and concept of the business was to deliver a positive change in the world in which we live. We know that there is no certainty in any venture. It requires daring, courage, determination and resources in order to turn a venture into a sustainable industry .
The vision is still valid and important and we remain hopeful that eventually the vision will be realized for the benefit of a better world. However, Better Place will not be able to take part in the realization of this vision."
Better Place Chief Executive Officer, Dan Cohen, said: "This is a difficult day for all of us. We have come a long way in order to bring about a global vision. From the start, Better Place was a breakthrough for the infrastructure of the electric car industry and successfully completed the development of its technology and infrastructure. Israel was the first place in which an electrical car could travel without limit.
Unfortunately, after a year's commercial operation, it was clear to us that despite many satisfied customers, the wider public take up would not be sufficient and that the support from the car producers was not forthcoming.
Against that background, the most recent fundraising round was not successful. In recent months, the management of the company did all that it could to keep the business operating. Today, in the light of our obligation to our staff, customers and creditors, we are applying to the court for the appointment of a temporary liquidator.
The management is requesting the voluntary liquidator once appointed to decide as quickly as possible to award compensation to customers and staff and maintain the functioning of the network".