The Fisker Karma might be the only plug-in hybrid available in smaller cities in the heartland for some time.
Next week, Fisker will kick off a whistle-stop North American tour of the Fisker Karma $87,000 plug-in hybrid sports car. Unlike the electric-drive competition, Fisker is hitting uncharted EV markets, such as Plano, Tex., Huntsville, Ala., Neena, Wis., and Centerville, Utah.
“Our market research shows Karma buyers represent all walks of life, and transcend traditional demographic profiles,” Marti Eulberg, Fisker vice-president, global sales and marketing, told HybridCars.com. “We expect our best North American markets to be mainly throughout the smile belt—from the Northwest, down the coast across Texas and Florida, and up the East Coast.”
Fisker’s view of geography—specifically its embrace of the South—is a break from the most common view about electric car adoption mostly on the coasts. Observers commonly point to hybrid ownership as the best proxy for EV adoption. The regional pattern of hybrid ownership in the past 10 years has favorably titled toward major coastal cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, DC, and New York. Many analysts forecast much stronger electric car sales in dense urban centers, than in sprawling suburbs and truck country.
Yet, the early part of Fisker’s tour will bring the 400-horsepower plug-in hybrid—with about 50 miles of all-electric range—to five cities in Texas before it swings to Tulsa, Huntsville, Tampa Bay and an Atlanta-based Cadillac dealership.
Fisker’s mapping also indicates that the company expects to sell the car as an exotic powerful sports car that happens to be a green plug-in hybrid—rather than for its green credentials. “Our retail strategy targets trend-setting clientele,” said Eulberg. “Because of its style and functionality the Karma will compete with traditionally-powered vehicles in its class, giving premium vehicle buyers a truly responsible alternative.”
The strategy also suggests relatively small production numbers going to lower-volume locations. Fisker is targeting up to 15,000 sales globally its first year of production, which begins in early 2011. The tour stops are located in places such as Paramus, NJ, rather than New York City—but does include hybrid hotspots such as Santa Monica, Silicon Valley, and Portland, Ore. See the Fisker website for complete tour locations and dates.
Who’s Going Where?
Will electric cars and plug-in hybrids be sold mostly in coastal urban hotspots? Or is heartland USA ready to plug in? Here’s how the plug-in players are approaching the geo-issue:
- The Tesla Roadster, the pioneering electric-drive sports car, is sold at stand-alone dealerships in more predictable premier locations: San Diego, Los Angeles, Menlo Park, Seattle, Miami, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, DC, New York and Boston.
- Coda Automotive, offering a more practical and affordable pure electric family sedan, will be sold exclusively in California.
- General Motors will put the Chevy Volt on sale, during the first year of sales in 2011, mostly in California—but also in Michigan and Washington, DC (probably for political rather than market reasons).
- Nissan placed its electric entry, the $32,000 pure electric Nissan Leaf, on tour in late 2009/early 2010—predominantly near the locations of its first five test markets in California, Washington, Oregon, Tennessee (where eTec, its technology partner is based), and Tennessee (where Nissan USA is headquartered).
- The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is likely to be sold throughout the entire US, when it goes on sale in 2012. Toyota officials told HybridCars.com that they expect sales of the plug-in Prius to be mostly from existing hybrid drivers.
The tour of the Fisker Karma will give retailers their first opportunity to give depositors and potential prospects an up-close look at the vehicle. But they won’t be able to drive it. The tour ends in early July. Test drives will not be available until the end of the year.