The new executive chairman of electric vehicle startup Canoo, Tony Aquila, has taken over the role of CEO at the company. Existing CEO and co-founder Ulrich Kranz is resigning and so is Canoo’s chief lawyer, Andrew Wolstan. It’s another major shake-up for the startup, which just became a publicly traded company as part of a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).
The departure of Kranz and Wolstan comes just weeks after Canoo’s chief financial officer resigned, and it lost its head of corporate strategy. The startup’s head of powertrain development and another one of the people who helped found Canoo in late 2017, Phil Weicker, also left at the beginning of this year.
Aquila took over as Canoo’s executive chairman as part of the SPAC merger late last year. Since then he has focused on moving the startup away from its original goal of creating an electric van that people would “subscribe” to and toward developing more truck-like vehicles for commercial fleets. He recently explained the shift in greater detail on the company’s first call with investors as a public company in March, where he also said a deal with Hyundai was basically dead.
Kranz, who spent years at BMW, was not on that call, which is unusual for a CEO. Aquila was even asked whether Kranz was still CEO. Kranz’s contract with Canoo was renegotiated as part of the SPAC merger, and he was removed from the startup’s board of directors. “There’s definitely a role [for Kranz]. There’s definitely advice that can happen. But to scale an organization at this level, I mean, that’s a different experience than he has,” Aquila said at the time.
Wolstan is being replaced by current Canoo VP Hector Ruiz, who came to the startup after nine years at Solera Holdings, Aquila’s previous company.
Thomas Dattilo, a member of Canoo’s board of directors and the chairperson of the nominating and corporate governance committee, said in a statement that “[t]he entire Board is pleased and excited that someone with Tony’s background, track record and vision has agreed to lead the Company.” Datillo previously served as a director on the board at Solera Holdings.
Canoo was founded in late 2017 by a group of former employees of fellow EV startup Faraday Future, including Kranz and fellow former BMW executive Stefan Krause. Krause left the startup in 2020 a few months before the SPAC merger process began. One of the few co-founders who remains at the startup is Richard Kim, who was a designer at BMW who led the styling of the i8 and i3. Others from that founding group who are still there are Sohel Merchant, who heads up the vehicle architecture; Christoph Kuttner, who leads interior design; Bill Strickland, the vehicle program lead who spent years at Ford; and Alexi Charbonneau, who worked at both SpaceX and Tesla.