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Flying car firm Terrafugia’s founders leave amid sweeping changes

Anna and Carl Dietrich, co-founders of US-based flying car developer Terrafugia, have departed from the business amid sweeping changes at the company, including the closure of its California research facility.

The husband and wife, along with three other Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates, set up Terrafugia in 2006. Carl Dietrich was most recently chief technology officer, while Anna Dietrich served as chief commercial officer until 2014.

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Terrafugia

In a message posted on his LinkedIn profile, Dietrich says that "after 13 amazing years with Terrafugia", he has decided to "step away from the company".

Woburn, Massachusetts-based Terrafugia was acquired in late 2017 by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which also owns automotive manufacturers Lotus and Volvo Cars. The deal promised extra financial and industrial muscle to help bring the Transition flying car to market.

However, sources indicate that earlier this year, Geely decided to replace most of Terrafugia's senior leadership team with staff based in China.

That included chief executive Chris Jaran, who has been succeeded by Charlie Jinn, a Comac and Honeywell veteran; Huaibing Wang was also appointed as chief financial officer.

Other US posts axed included back office functions, as well as the certification and business development departments and the research and development facility in Petaluma, California. US-based headcount is falling by around two-thirds to roughly 60 employees.

Despite repeated attempts to contact Terrafugia, the company was unavailable for comment.

In April 2018, just five months after its acquisition by Geely, Terrafugia promised it was on course to create 130 new US jobs.

Terrafugia is developing two products at present: the twin-seat Transition – due to arrive this year – and a modular vertical take-off and landing concept called the TF-2.

The latter is an ambitious design that features a hybrid propulsion system powering eight electric motors – six providing vertical lift and another pair for thrust – and which docks with a ground vehicle after landing.

Terrafugia says the TF-2 can carry four passengers or 635kg (1,400lb) of cargo over a range of 161nm (300km).

It is unclear whether the changes at the company have altered the timeline of either programme.

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