Karma is back! The Fisker Karma, that is.
Fisker Automotive’s electric vehicle boasted cutting edge design, but couldn’t overcome production and quality issues that sucked up millions of dollars and led to its demise. Enter Chinese auto supplier Wanxiang, which bought the company out of bankruptcy a few months ago and is looking to resurrect the plug-in hybrid similar to the Chevy Volt by the middle of next year.
According to Fisker’s interim president, Tim Brown, the Karma will back next year with two siblings not far behind: the Surf, a $100,000 station wagon-like version of the Karma and the Atlantic, a smaller sedan that was originally stated to be the follow up to the Karma at about $50,000.
Brown told the Orange County Register that the Surf will come in 2016 while the Atlantic is expected in 2017.
“We don’t know if we would keep Fisker Automotive as the company (name),” said Brown, a managing partner at Nashville, Tenn.-based Summit Strategic Investments who has worked with Wanxiang for years. “The cars are the rock stars.”
The plans going forward look more like an outline of thoughts rather than actions set in stone. The company, which currently consists of 25 employees left over from the original 150 workers, is looking for a new headquarters as well as a full-time, permanent CEO, Brown told the newspaper.
Wanxiang America, a unit of China’s largest auto parts supplier, won an auction for Fisker in bankruptcy court in February for $149.2 million. It outbid another Chinese company, Hybrid Tech Holdings L.L.C., for the assets. Hybrid bought the Fisker’s loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, hoping to leverage that ownership into getting the entire company.
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Fisker Automotive was found in Anaheim, Calif. in 2007 by Henrik Fisker, a Danish designer best known for penning striking luxury models such as the Aston Martin DB9. The design of the Karma was enough to cause a stir and several celebrities, Leonardo DiCaprio being the biggest, were seen driving the cars.
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The company quickly raised more than $1 billion in private equity and was also approved for a $529 million federal loan from a program designed to spur the development of alternative-power vehicles.
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But after missing some key production targets, the Department of Energy froze that loan, Fisker only able to tap about $192 million. Things got worse when production of the Karma got off to a rocky start.
The maker also faced a series of recalls and the loss of some plug-in hybrids during Hurricane Sandy. It was forced to halt development of a second, smaller model, and put on hold plans to re-open the GM plant in Delaware that was to produce the less-expensive Fisker Atlantic.