By Chris Haak
The day that many thought would never occur has happened. The Fisker Karma – a plug-in hybrid luxury-sports car – has begun at Valmet Automotive’s plant in Uusikaupunki, Finland. This means that the first customer deliveries of the Karma should occur in the US and Europe by the end of April.
Fisker’s Karma is an ambitious project. Similar in concept to the Chevrolet Volt, but more expensive, faster, and more stylish, the car boasts a shapely silhouette designed by Henrik Fisker and a 2.0 liter turbocharged direct injection GM-sourced four cylinder, plus an electric motor and sizable battery pack.
Henrik Fisker had an illustrious career designing cars for other companies prior to staking out on his own. He designed the Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage, Artega GT and BMW Z8. Later, Fisker left Aston and formed Fisker Coachbuild, where he re-bodied and customized premium cars such as the BMW 6 Series and Mercedes-Benz SL, and added bespoke features requested by his customers. Later, Fisker Coachbuild entered into a joint venture with Quantum Technologies to form Fisker Automotive, the company that is selling the Karma.
In the event that you’re not familiar with Valmet Automotive, it began as a joint venture between Saab-Scania and Valmet in 1968. It proceeded to build a number of Saab vehicles for the Swedish manufacturer, most recently, the Saab 9-3 convertible. Valmet also builds the Porsche Cayman and Boxster, as well as the Think electric city car. So, the company has experience in building high-quality luxury automobiles.
Fisker plans to have 7,000 worldwide deliveries of the Karma during 2011, with production ramping up slowly to ensure a quality, glitch-free launch. After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The Karma starts at $95,800 in the US, and goes up from that point with optional interior features and larger battery capacity.
The follow-up acts to the Karma sedan include a convertible variant, as well as a more affordable (meaning $40,000) car called the Fisker Nina. The Nina – or whatever name the car ends up with – will be built in GM’s former assembly plant in Wilmington, Delaware that most recently built the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice roadsters. The plant has been idle since July 2009 when those two cars went out of production. Fisker received a sizable $529 million loan from the US Department of Energy to fund construction of its Nina production line in Delaware. Once production commences, it will mark the return of new-vehicle production to Delaware, which lost its last two active plants when Chrysler shut down its plant in Newark that had been building the Durango and Aspen, and GM closed the Solstice/Sky plant.
Fisker is also hoping for an IPO later in 2011. The company has already received $150 million in funding in recent months, which will go toward funding Nina development and creating additional derivatives of the Karma.