Fisker Karma (aka Elux Karma) production is reportedly about to resume in California. Interestingly, the initial 2,000 or so Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid electric cars were not produced in the United States, but now that Fisker is owned by a Chinese company… it is going to start producing in California. Say what?
Well, that’s the word on the block. Wanxiang Automotive, the Chinese company that bought out the troubled automaker (Fisker Automotive), is reportedly opening a production facility in Moreno Valley, California.
Fisker Automotive and Technology Group (FATG) is now the official name of the Wanxiang subsidiary, by the way. “FATG believes in the quality, work ethic and competitiveness of manufacturing in the United States,” stated FATG marketing chief James Taylor. “California’s natural beauty, trend setting, technology, and environmental focus are perfectly aligned with our Karma relaunch.”
The original name of the company’s sole plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (or vehicle of any type) was the Fisker Karma, and that is still what it is predominantly called and known as. However, it will reportedly be renamed the Elux Karma with the new batch. So, what has changed in order to warrant the name change? Chris DeMorro says not much, as it “will be basically the same car.” However, hundreds of “bugs” have been cleaned out of the car, issues that were partially the reason for the car’s poor market performance the first time around… but only just part of it. Of course, there’s also the car’s low electric-only range and quite limited performance compared to the similarly priced Tesla Model S. But I’ll get to those matters later.
Getting back to the production side of the story, the Fisker production facility in Moreno Valley will reportedly create 150 manufacturing jobs — nothing to scoff at. Originally, the Fisker Karma was produced in Finland (of all places), while a factory in Delaware was being prepared for its scaled up production… which of course didn’t occur before the company went bankrupt.
Of course, with bankruptcy came a loss of support for Fisker Karma owners needing repairs, parts, etc. (It’s one of the most notable risks that come with buying a car from a startup.) Wanxiang, or Fisker Automotive and Technology Group, is honorably working to help those initial customers now. “Recently, FATG reached out to current owners of the Karma to offer them appointed authorized CSP (customer support program) providers to assist with service and parts needs. Current owners will gets up to $2,000 in repairs performed for free along with $1,000 in labor costs,” AutoGuide.com writes. You can find more details on the “New Fisker” website.
Not redesigning the Karma comes with a few advantages. One obvious one is that Wanxiang doesn’t have to dump a lot of money into that costly process, which would include a lot of in-house work as well as safety testing, certification, etc. Another benefit is that most if not all of the issues related to the design are now known. And third is that it is a bloody beautiful design. For all the criticism of Fisker’s initial run, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone criticize the look of the car. That is its redeeming quality, and I think it’s safe to say that it’s hard to find a prettier car.
However, in the end, no matter how pretty the car is, I’m afraid it’s going to be hard to find a lot of buyers with a price tag of $100,000 (which is reportedly what it will cost). In another reality, that might not be a huge challenge, but one has to remember the existence of Tesla Motors. You can buy an insane Tesla Model S P85D for $100,000. The Model S P85D may not have the luxury or quite the same beautiful design of the Karma, but the acceleration and tech package put it on a totally different level. (The Fisker Karma had a 0–60 mph time of ~5.8 seconds, while the Tesla P85D has a 0–60 mph time of ~3.1 seconds) Sure, some will opt for the Elux Karma, just as some have opted for the Cadillac ELR, but its hard to see that being anything but a small number of rich people. And remember, it’s not all luxury with the Karma. Chris DeMorro writes:
People fell in love with the look, but had little good to say about the drivetrain, which was labeled both inefficient and underpowered. The interior was also claustrophobically small, earning the Karma a subcompact rating despite it having a wheelbase eight-inches longer than the full size Tesla Model S.
Nothing short of a total redesign can solve the cramped interior, but it looks like we’ll have at least a few years to wait before Henrik Fisker’s creation gets a new look.
Indeed. And without a thorough redesign, I’m not sure how much Wanxiang Automotive and Fisker Automotive and Technology Group can accomplish. We’ll see….
In the meantime, for those who haven’t been following the company for years, perhaps a bit more history would be useful to you.
Fisker Karma History
Fisker Automotive was founded in Anaheim, California, in 2007. The Fisker Karma debuted at the North American International Auto Show in 2008. The initial year for sales was supposed to be 2009, but that ended up getting pushed to late 2011 (surely a big reason for the company’s financial woes).
Stepping back a little further for a moment, note that designer and cofounder Henrik Fisker previously worked as a lead designer for Tesla Motors… reportedly without indicating to Tesla that he was working on a plug-in car design of his own. Henrik Fisker was dropped for unsatisfactory work at Tesla, and Fisker Automotive was later sued by Tesla (in 2008) for stealing Tesla technology, using it for the Fisker Karma, and saving his best design ideas for the Karma while doing substandard work for Tesla. In 2009, the suit was settled in favor of Fisker, with Tesla ordered to pay Fisker $1.1 million in legal fees.
Despite not starting production until late 2011, Fisker stopped production of the Karma in 2012. Its own financial problems seemed to be the root cause, but there was also a significant issue with one of its main suppliers, A123 Systems, which produced the batteries the Fisker Karma used. A123 went bankrupt in 2012 — aside from supply constraints, that left Fisker with unwieldy recall and repair costs. It never resumed.
In November 2013, Fisker Automotive had to finally declare bankruptcy. After what seemed like ages, and many rumors, Fisker Automotive was bought by the Wanxiang Group in February 2014. More detail on Fisker Karma’s history can be found on Wikipedia or in GAS2‘s Fisker archives.
Will Wanxiang Group and Fisker Automotive and Technology Group turn over a financially successful new leaf with the Elux Karma and California production? Will there be a significant market for the plug-in hybrid electric car? We’ll see….