Karma Setting Up Stores Using Both Tesla Model and Network of Luxury Franchised Dealers

Karma Automotive will be selling its Revero four-door coupe using a business model similar to both competitor Tesla Motors’ stores and its previous incarnation, Fisker Automotive.

By year end, the Revero plug-in hybrid electric car will be available through a handful of high-end franchised dealers around the country. Karma also plans a few “brand experience centers” similar to Tesla’s retail stores in markets where it makes the most sense to launch these stores.

Jim Taylor, Karma’s chief marketing officer, told Automotive News that the two-prong approach should give the startup automaker the best of both worlds.

The company-owned stores will be launched in states and markets that are more friendly to this type of retail experience. Going this route will bring Karma advantages in telling its own story, Taylor said.

Existing dealers joining the Karma network include 10 franchised dealerships in key luxury markets around the U.S. and in Canada. The upscale audience served by these 10 dealers could be a good fit for Karma, including the Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, McLaren, and Porsche brands. Taylor didn’t comment on whether any of these dealers previously belonged to the Fisker luxury dealership network.

Karma will also tap into their service centers. Fisker Karma owners can have their cars serviced at these dealer locations, along with the Revero and other upcoming Karma models.

“These guys really understand this customer,” Taylor said. “They get that it’s not moving metal and pushing volume like the mass-market guys have to.”

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The first in the chain of company-owned brand experience centers will be opening up in Orange County, Calif. The Revero will be unveiled there on Sept. 8, but teaser images will be sent out throughout August, Taylor said.

Karma plans to follow Telsa’s lead on creating a low-pressure sale space, where it can control its brand message and image. Taylor says that it also helps Karma convey a message to dealers that it’s living up to the same standards it expects them to go by.

“When you control your own store, you live it every day, so you have to walk the walk,” Taylor said. “So I think in a good way it puts a lot of pressure on yourself to deliver the same level of performance.”

Dealers are already taking orders on the Revero, which will start above the $100,000 price of the earlier Fisker Karma, according to Karma Automotive. The Revero will be assembled at the company’s factory in Moreno Valley, Calif. That plant is now building prototypes, as Karma moves forward on its plan to launch the car by the end of the year.

Karma is now owned by Wanxiang Group, the Chinese owner of battery maker A123. Wanxiang is seeking government approval to build plug-in hybrid electric vehicles based on the Karma platform, to tap into China’s “new-energy vehicle” market.

Automotive News