Its been nearly a decade since the original Fisker Karma made its debut and though the plug-in hybrid sports car still looks surprisingly fresh, there’s no question it is living on borrowed time.
With only a few minor modifications, the PHEV is today known as the Karma Revero, the sole product of a Chinese-owned company that purchased the assets of the bankrupt Fisker Automotive back in 2013. But now, it seems, Karma Automotive is finally ready to update its line-up.
Based in the Silicon Valley mecca of Palo Alto, the automaker says it will reveal three “all-new” models at Auto Shanghai 2019 next month. What it is calling its “New Dawn” product line-up includes not only an all-new version of the Karma Revero but also an all-electric model, as well. The third product appears to be a concept that Karma has developed in partnership with the Italian design house Pininfarina.
The original Karma came to market in 2012, more than a year late and saddled with a number of bugs that all but sealed the fate of Fisker Automotive, an ambitious project launched by former Aston Martin design chief Henrik Fisker. Within barely a year, the automaker was bankrupt, its assets auctioned off to a Chinese company.
(Karma, Blackberry display new security technology at CES. Click Here for the story.)
Despite its issues, the design of the original plug-in hybrid was hailed as “timeless,” something it proved when the company was brought back to life in 2017 as Karma Automotive, the car itself now redubbed the Revero. Sales since then have been modest, at best, reflecting the fact that Revero is using largely the same drivetrain technology as it did when first launched back in 2013.
For years, we’ve been hearing inside reports that the plug-in would wind up abandoning its old General Motors-derived four-cylinder gas engine for a BMW-sourced alternative. It seems highly likely that there will, indeed, be some big changes to the drivetrain used by the next-generation Revero, but we may have to wait until Auto Shanghai to get details.
A series of images released by the automaker, both by e-mail and online, suggest that it won’t stray too far from the original Revero’s design, however.
The company really isn’t saying much at all about what’s coming to China next month, a terse statement by CEO Lance Zhou telling us that, “Our New Dawn represents Karma’s short, medium, and long-term product direction. We have a solid product plan that spans the next decade and relationships with the right partners who are helping us accelerate technology and product development.”
“Taken together,” Zhou added, “Karma’s Shanghai Big Three represents our transformation from an old-value car manufacturer to a company building long-term value in part by becoming an open-platform luxury high-tech automotive incubator.”
(Click Here to see what Henrik Fisker is up to these days.)
Exactly what an “open-platform” automaker might translate into is far from clear. Perhaps the concept that Pininfarina helped Karma pull together for Shanghai will be an indication.
One of the benefits of electrification is that most of the key powertrain components are housed in a skateboard-like platform. That potentially makes it easy to come up with all manner of body designs, from sports cars, coupes and sedans, to crossovers and even vans and pickups.
That’s something that Michigan-based start-up Rivian is demonstrating. At the Los Angeles Auto Show last November it revealed both a pickup and SUV based on its new battery platform, and it is reportedly working on a delivery van for new investor Amazon using the same underlying architecture.
Could that be what Karma has in mind? We may find out soon.
What’s intriguing is that the Silicon Valley automaker appears to be taking a different track from its nearby rival Tesla, focusing on electrified drivetrains in various forms, including both plug-in hybrids and all-electric models. Where it will target its expanded line-up remains to be seen.
(To see more about the Karma capturing a Green Car Award, Click Here.)
The company says the updated Revero will be launched later this year in the U.S., Canada and Chile. Oddly, there’s no mention in its release about plans for China, the world’s largest market for plug-based vehicles. You can be sure there’ll be plenty of questions about that next month, as well.