Fisker has a new owner, and it’s been revealed that the once electric-only Karma sedan will come roaring back with a supercharged, gasoline-powered V8. What’s more, Fisker is enlisting the help of GM’s former executive, Bob Lutz, for the new design.
Lutz, a former critic of Fisker, has a chance to step in and prove that sports car owners would rather firepower under the hood than “sustainability.” Will he be proven right?
The First Chapter in Fisker’s Short History
When Fisker was founded in 2007, the plan was to be the first automaker to bring a plug-in hybrid sports sedan to market, much like the Chevy Volt, but also somewhat like the Tesla Model S (at least in the sense that both were plug-in electrics). Fisker enjoyed lots of free press and enthusiastic support, including famous backing from people like Leonardo DiCaprio.
The first (and only) vehicle Fisker produced – the Karma – enjoyed middling reviews. Car and Driver liked the Karma, but said it failed to keep pace with similarly priced (and gasoline powered) sports sedans. Consumer Reports found numerous flaws in the vehicle’s design and quality, but did appreciate the car’s handling, ride, and braking. Unfortunately, a series of missteps and a cataclysmic weather event forced Fisker out of business in 2012.
Under New Ownership
The good news for auto enthusiasts is that nothing is ever truly “dead” in the auto industry. Fisker was purchased by the Wanxiang Group of China, and plans to revive the Karma as a gas powered sports car were revealed. The Wanxiang group is now planning on teaming up with automotive executive Bob Lutz and Gilbert Villarreal to make these plans come to life.
The new Karma-based sports sedan will be called the VL Destino, and it will use a restyled Karma body along with a ZR-1 drivetrain to make a sports sedan that can reach 200 miles per hour.
This is quite a different plan than the original vision of Fisker. Wanxiang insists that its not totally abandoning the brand’s green roots. It has plans to build hybrid Karmas in addition to Destinos. They will also continue to develop cars that use a combination of battery power along with gasoline engines to boost power and efficiency.
In the upcoming months, production will once again begin at the Fisker plant in Finland. Once the group has sorted through inventory in northern Europe, it will begin making cars at the VL facility near Detroit in Michigan. They have also made mention of using their new plant in Delaware.
This new production model takes a slow approach, partially to reflect a smaller market for this heretofore unknown vehicle, and partially to avoid some of the problems that led to the demise of Fisker to begin with. They are looking to sell about 1,000 Karma and Destino cars in the U.S. during the first 18 months, with another 500 or so selling in Europe.
Would You Buy A New Destino?
While Bob Lutz lends a great deal of industry credibility to the “new” Fisker, it remains to be seen if consumers will respond to this new car. Concerns about quality, service and warranty coverage, and the longevity of the automaker will no doubt haunt buyers who invest in a Destino or new Karma Hybrid.
On the other hand, the Karma’s vehicle platform was carefully designed (nearly $1 billion was spent on the car prior to Fisker’s collapse), and the powertrain being used is rock-solid. There are reasons to believe this new vehicle will be every bit as great as promised.
Still…would you buy a new Destino, assuming you had the cash? The MSRP is expected to come in just under $200k, a price that would put you into any number of luxury sports sedans.
What do you think?