After many months of seduction, I have finally succumbed. I am buying a Fisker Karma. Yes I know, the car is officially an “orphan” as in no longer produced, no dealers, no factory authorized repair facilities. But to me, Fisker is not another Plymouth, Oldsmobile or Pontiac; other nameplates that were put out of business in the relatively recent past. This is a chance to acquire what I believe will be an important piece of automotive history at a reasonable price.
Those of you with any knowledge in the electric vehicle space may remember that Fisker Automotive was a darling of the first Green Tech boom in 2008 with their sexy Fisker Karma sporty electric car, a serious competitor to the Tesla Model S with a range-extender to combat range anxiety. Justin Bieber used to drive a shiny silver Karma, remember? The company suffered a series of setbacks during the economic recession that followed, first, getting their loan from the US government frozen in 2011 due to election year politics. Then in 2012, a US shipment of 338 Fisker Karma vehicles landed in a New Jersey dock right before Hurricane Sandy. The dock flooded (like most of coastal NJ), the cars got submerged, their batteries caught fire due to being surrounded by salty seawater and then exploded, setting fire to other vehicles and destroying the whole shipment. And then their insurer contested the claim and didn’t pay. That was the straw that broke the camels back, because in 2013 Fisker Automative filed for bankruptcy and stopped producing their cars. Despite that, the groundbreaking Fisker Karma is still popular and selling well, with celebrity owners, and a thriving market for used used Fisker Karmas.
The Fisker Karma is a decidedly green vehicle, as a plug-in hybrid not unlike the Chevrolet Volt. The electric motors are backed up by a GM turbocharged four cylinder gas engine which enables you to drive it like a “regular car” once you run out of battery charge. It will travel about 30 miles or so on a full battery charge before the power is depleted. After that, it drives another 250 miles or so on gas. Not to mention, the interiors are made out of mostly reclaimed, recycled, and reusable materials, such as: soy-based bio fiber for seating systems, reclaimed woods for trim, carpet from recycled post-consumer materials and leather sourced from a closed loop manufacturing plant.
“What made the Karma so unique is that it was one of few cars ever to go from a concept car sketch directly to a consumer vehicle,” said Carlos Ferreira, Art Center College of Design Professor and automotive design expert. “On a purely design basis of evaluation, it is still one of if not the most beautiful modern sedans you’ll see driving down the street.”
Others are not so sure, however. “I think it is all over for Fisker Karma – today $50,000 but soon much less,” said a prominent veteran retailer of Porsche, BMW and many other marques over a 30+ year career span. This particular auto dealer’s opinion is especially valid because he has demonstrated a very good eye for future collectible vehicles over the years, having owned a bevy of very rare Porsches and Ferraris.
As first reported by Reuters Business News in September of 2014, China’s Wanxiang Group (which purchased the remaining assets of Fisker out of bankruptcy) is supposedly moving ahead with plans to reintroduce this striking design as simply “the Karma.” It will be very similar to the original, but with a series of product enhancements and ergonomic alterations designed to address some of the original car’s shortcomings. For example, the Fisker is a huge and very heavy vehicle (a whopping 5,300 pounds), yet barely accommodates four adults in a rather tight interior. This is because of the “show car” styling as referenced by Ferreira. The airplane cockpit-type of interior design looks super cool but is not particularly functional.
At 5’4” I don’t mind this, but I am not so sure how my 6’4” husband will feel about peeling himself out of those snug deep bucket seats. And as for service? Well, I will be on my own with that. There are several private repair centers that claim to work on Fisker in the L.A. area, but warranty is non-existent and I am sure it will be an adventure to get it repaired should we experience any “failure-to-proceeds.” Word on the street is some customers are waiting in the wings to see if Wanxiang Group releases the new Kharma, if so, dealers have claimed values of the original Fisker Karma will “skyrocket.” Considering only 1,800 units were released on the open market, collectibility would seem imminent, but who knows? While predicting the market for collectible hybrids isn’t my bailiwick, I am so taken with the aesthetics of the Fisker Karma that I am proceeding on the merits as a design enthusiast.
Our car is coming from Austin, Texas. Stay tuned, I will provide an update once it arrives and I have had a chance to shepherd it around the Downtown L.A. Arts District.
For other articles related to the electric cars, please see SCGH’s (www.scgh.com) archive including
Tesla: An Electrifying Experience, but not for the Everyman.