Mr. Fisker’s Green Car Opus

Like a sculptor who refuses to unveil his masterwork until his creation is complete, Henrik Fisker has kept his gorgeous $87,900 four-door plug-in hybrid under wraps. Yes, Fisker Automotive has shown off numerous variations of the Fisker Karma at major auto shows in the past few years. But a vehicle is not a stationary object d’art. It must be driven to be understood and appreciated, and so far, Fisker is not letting anybody outside the company take a ride. (His Royal Highness, Crown Prince of Denmark—who spent some time behind the wheel—doesn’t count.)

Perhaps a better metaphor for Fisker is the film auteur, as in Francis Ford Copolla of the Apocalypse Now era. The Fisker Karma was originally promised for delivery in late 2009, which slipped to mid-2010, and now looks like late 2010. Like Copolla lost on location in the jungles, perfecting his opus and running over budget, Fisker is running up expenses and taking on more debt (another $115 million in venture funding in January)—while raising still more money for a factory/studio to produce an entire line of green dream machines.

According to Reuters report earlier this month, Fisker says the company will be fully funded by the end of 2010, and that by 2011, it will be cash flow positive and producing 15,000 Karma sedans a year from its contract plant in Finland. With another half-billion dollars pledged as a loan from the US government (plus other venture backing), the company is promising by 2014 to produce 100,000 vehicles a year—including a more affordable plug-in hybrid and the second-generation Karma—from a refurbished Delaware plant previous owned by General Motors.

“Mr. De Mille, I’m Ready for My Close-up”

There’s a reason that investors keep investing and green car fans patiently keep waiting.
The Fisker script is compelling. A rebel auto designer bucks the system, and bests other courageous start-ups (see: Tesla Roadster) by producing a beautiful, practical and ultra-green sports car. The four-seat 400-horsepower Fisker Karma is powered by two electric motors and a turbocharged 2.0-liter 260-horsepower four-cylinder engine. The battery pack holds enough energy storage for 50 miles of all-electric driving. Running low on juice? No problem. Use gas for another 250 miles (or at least until you can go for a quick fill-up at a regular old gas station).

Add drop-dead looks, 0-60 in six seconds, and a top speed of 125 mph—and mileage, at least on common routes, that could reach 70 mpg or higher.

The company recently hired Lambesis, the California-based “strategic brand development agency”—also known as an ad agency—behind recent campaigns for SKYY Vodka, Grand Marnier and Dasani. Of course, cars have to be marketed and sold, but nothing would better prove Fisker’s ability to deliver on its promises than putting the first journalist behind the wheel. (Henrik darling, I’m ready for a test drive. Have your people call my people.)

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  • TD

    “400 horsepower … 50 mile all electric range … Add drop-dead looks, 0-60 in six seconds, and a top speed of 125 mph—and mileage, at least on common routes, that could reach 70 mpg or higher.”

    Easy to make promises when you’ve got nothing to sell. Heck an SUV can get 70 mpg when it’s going down hill. I’ll believe it when I seen them for sale and on the road.

    I also wouldn’t call the $87,900 asking price practical.

  • FiskerBuzz

    I’m anxiously awaiting the day the first journalists get behind the wheel of the production Karma. As long as the dynamics match the gorgeous looks, Fisker will make a significant impact on the market. While so many auto start-ups have failed over the years, I think most would agree that Fisker is on a path to success and is a car company to watch.

  • NormotheBig

    TD, very very very well said. When’s the Volt coming?

  • Mr. Fusion

    Sweet, the new James Bond car!
    I can even see where the guns and oil slick are going to go!

  • Old Man Crowder

    Mr. Fusion: … and because it’s a sedan, James Bond can make out with the ladies in the back seat!

  • piperjack

    I sat in but did not drive the Karma at the NY auto show last year. I’m 6′ tall and about 270 lbs. It was wonderful and I put my money down. Can’t wait until I get it. I didn’t try the back seat but it looked ok. I couldn’t see much beyond the breathtaking beauty of the car.

  • JohnnyAloha

    No joke, I was with Piperjack (hi Dad) at the auto show last year. The salesmodel was so impressed with my knowledge of Henrik’s previous designs (and with the fact that Dad and I were able to keep our eyes on the curves of the CAR) that she let us through the velvet ropes to touch and sit in the car (much to the chagrin of envious onlookers.) I can tell you that no matter how much time you’ve spent ogling this machine online, nothing can prepare you for just how dramatic it appears in real life. It is so low, so swoopy, so serpentine and voluptuous, that even around other exotics, it stands out like a Russian runway model at a WeightWatchers meeting.

  • jonak

    Oh I do so want one

  • Soflauthor

    I’m #737 on the waiting list and have watched the car evolve since it early announcement in 2008. The delays were predictable, but I expect that my patience will be rewarded. In the short (and mid-) term, PHEVs are the most practical solution when you need an energy efficient car. My driving habits mean that on most days I’ll burn no gasoline. The car is pricy, no doubt, and it’s therefore not for everyone. But if you’ve got the resources, it’s quite a car … certainly a competitor to many 18 mpg luxury sedans. Beautiful too.

  • Shines

    Maybe this is why GM dropped the Converj? Too much competition for it? GM could have made a 4 door version of the Converj – it has competitive styling and like I mentioned in other posts could have been modified with a larger electric motor to provide competitive performance as well.
    Ah well good luck to Fisker. Without the competition from GM hopefully it won’t follow the path of other performance start ups such as Bricklin or Delorean.

  • Max Reid

    Are they going to sell 15,000 machines at 88K. Its very optimistic.
    Any why only a 4-seater, such wide vehicle can be a 6-seater (3 seats * 2 rows).

    If it does not sell well, do they have another model – a small car that costs around 40K.

  • shanae

    the price is justified an should work , we should see them soon in all kind of categories from small to big