Better place 311.
(photo credit: Better place)
The liquidators in charge of winding down Better Place, the electric-car
manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy earlier this week, said Thursday they
will fire of two-thirds of the workforce.
Of the 209 workers to be let go,
160 to 170 would receive notice later in the day, leaving the company with 111
workers, Sigal Rozen Rechav, charged with liquidating the company, told the
Knesset Economics Committee on Thursday. All the employees will receive salaries
for May, and further layoffs could be expected before the liquidation is
complete, she said.
In the first phase of the liquidation, which will run
through June 13, the 38 battery-swapping stations would continue to operate for
car owners, though the question of how many of the stations will continue to
operate after that date and for how long remained unresolved, Rozen Rechav
“With the current number of customers, there is no model that can
cover the costs,” she said. Of the 900 Better Place customers in Israel, 200 of
them were company employees.
The company, which had $8 million to $9m. in
cash left on hand, had costs of about $7m. a month, including $2m. of
A few unlucky Better Place customers will not be able
to utilize their cars for that entire period of time. The Transportation
Ministry put a hold on import licenses for the company, meaning that customers
who have not yet received their cars are stuck. Economics Committee chairman
Avishai Braverman (Labor) requested that the ministry find a solution by the end
of the day.
During the discussion, a slew of other thorny subjects facing
liquidators came to the fore. Chief among them was the fate of a Swiss branch of
Better Place that held the company’s patents and intellectual property. Of the
14 companies in the Better Place group, only four of them were in Israel, and
not all have yet applied for bankruptcy.
If the liquidator is unable to
bring the Swiss company’s assets into the Israeli bankruptcy process, which she
promised to attempt, the value of the patents could remain outside their reach,
providing no benefit to the customers, suppliers and employees seeking
The committee discussed how existing customers could make
use of their cars, which can only travel up to 120 kilometers without a charge
or a battery swap.
Customers need a solution because without the working
infrastructure, “you had a car and now you have a hunk of iron in the yard,”
Rozen Rechav said.
Braverman said the legal situation was
“The battery in the cars belongs to Better Place and the Renault
company,” he said. “Does the liquidator intend to take these batteries?”
Customers who said they were satisfied with their cars under the existing system
urged the government to invest in public charging outlets or find a way to
rescue the battery-swapping stations.
The way the state responded to the
needs of the customers could set the tone for its future support of electric
vehicles. Braverman called for a followup meeting next week.