Could a V8 engine save the Fisker brand?
Yesterday, FoxNews.com asked: “Can the internal combustion engine save the electric car?” and answered: “In the case of the Fisker Karma, it just might be”.
We last wrote of Fisker Automotive in October 2012 when Mitt Romney, then standing against Barrack Obama for the Presidency of the United States, described the firm as “losers”. In the case of Romney, many of our readers rejoiced at his rejection but events of recent weeks have suggested that Fisker indeed will go the same way.
The Fisker Karma was the brainchild of Henrik Fisker, a Danish car designer whose previous creations have numbered the Shelby GR1 concept, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and the BMW Z8 Roadster. In co-founding Fisker Coachbuild in 2005 and then Fisker Automotive in 2007, Henrik Fisker brought his design skills together with the “business acumen” and knowledge of “veteran auto executive” Bernhard Koehler.
With the backing of, amongst others, an Italian businessman named Gianfranco Pizzuto, Qatar Holdings and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the pair began to manufacture their own automobiles. The Fisker Karma, a “plugin luxury sports sedan” described by AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson as a “cracking looking jamjar”, was the firm’s first vehicle. It was revealed at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Fisker and Koehler were bolstered by a $528 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 and after various delays, the Karma finally rolled off the production line at a starting price of $102,000 in July 2011.
The car was an immediate hit with environmentally conscientious personalities. Leonardo DiCaprio, a big fan and equity investor, got the first one and Justin Bieber was given one as a gift from his manager and Usher on the Ellen show. The normally cynical Top Gear presenter James May described the vehicle as “probably the most politically correct car on earth” whilst others who rushed to buy into Fisker’s concept numbered Al Gore, Colin Powell and Ashton Kutcher.
By February 2012, however, cracks in the company’s structure had begun to appear. Fisker moved to the role of executive chairman before production stopped in the summer of that year. The company refinanced but though it is said that some $1 billion was raised, several vehicles self-combusted that August resulting in a voluntary recall. Worse still came for Fisker Automotive then when A123 Systems Inc., the manufacturer of its car batteries, declared bankruptcy.
This body blow caused Fisker Automotive to cease production indefinitely as without batteries, they could not continue to make the Karma nor move forward with a cheaper $55,000 model named the Atlantic that was intended as the “volume car that begins to build growth”.
October 2012’s Hurricane Sandy dealt further disaster for Fisker after its entire European shipment of 300 Karmas was flooded and destroyed at Port Newark in New Jersey. Sixteen of the cars burned when eight foot of seawater caused a short circuit in one of them. Fifteen other vehicles burned as the blaze spread and in total some $30 million of damage resulted.
On 13th March 2013, Fisker Automotive was, according to Thilo Koslowski, an analyst at Gartner Inc., left as a “brand without a soul” when Henrik Fisker resigned. In an email to Automotive News, Fisker wrote:
“The main reasons for his resignation are several major disagreements that Henrik Fisker has with the Fisker Automotive executive management on the business strategy”.
Among the potential partners that Fisker Automotive’s management had been negotiating with to raise the funds needed to save the company were the Geely Holding Group, the Chinese company that owns Volvo, and Wanxiang Group Corp., whom recently bought battery maker A123 Systems Inc. out of bankruptcy. By late March 2013, however, with no deal concluded, Fisker Automotive’s board terminated 75% of their employees without notice and hired a law firm to prepare for a possible bankruptcy.
As FoxNews.com reported, though, Aaray of hope has come for Henrik Fisker’s Karma in the form of a boutique carmaker named VL Automotive. Founded by the former vice chairman of General Motors, Bob Lutz, VL Automotive plans to combine the Karma’s shell with a 556hp 6.2-litre supercharged V8 engine from the Cadillac CTS-V.
The rebranded vehicle, which the company have named the Destino, will be priced at around $185,000. Lutz has acquired 20 battery and powertrain free Karma “gliders” so far and claims to have some 100 orders on his books.
In addition, VL Automotive will also convert existing electric Karmas to V8 power for circa $90,000. Of such, Mr Lutz commented:
“We’ve heard from hundreds of Karma owners, with about 10% who may want to convert their cars, because sooner or later the cars might wind up as boat anchors”.
In conclusion, he added: “If Fisker disappears, it won’t affect us” as he believes VL Automotive could work with the automaker’s Finnish platform suppliers Valmet Automotive to build the Karma/Destino itself.
Oil could indeed be the Karma’s Destino.
To view the official website for Frisker Automotive, go to: http://www.fiskerautomotive.com
To view the official website for VL Automotive, go to: http://www.vl-automotive.com