Fisker Begins Karma Production

By Scott Doggett March 29, 2011

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Fisker Automotive has started limited production of its Karma plug-in hybrid electric sports tourer and expects the first of the vehicles to reach dealerships in the U.S. and Europe simultaneously by the end of April or beginning of May as demonstrator models. Customer deliveries are set to begin in both markets two months later, company spokesman Roger Ormisher told AutoObserver in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

The Irvine, Calif.-based automaker has started producing its first model --  the 2012 Karma, with a base price of $96,850 including destination fees -- at Finnish assembler Valmet Automotive. It will ship two or three of the models to each of its 45 outlets in the U.S. and an equal number of importers in Europe as demonstration vehicles, Ormisher said.

"A lot of our deposit-holders have been waiting two years or more for their cars. We really want to give them firsthand experience with what the Fisker Karma is all about before they finalize their orders and pick trim and color and everything else," Ormisher said. That’s why the first 80 to 120 of the sleek 403-horsepower four-doors with a staggering 981 pound-feet of torque will be going to retailers instead of customers, he explained.

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The company has taken $5,000 deposits from about 3,000 would-be buyers worldwide. For many, the model's appearance in a showroom will be the first time many of those buyers will have seen the highly anticipated car "in the flesh" and been given the chance to drive one, Ormisher said by phone.

As with virtually all new-model launches, production will begin slowly, with close attention to detail as the initial market-ready Karmas are assembled, Ormisher said. He added that the company expects to enter full production of 15,000 units annually in October. Fisker, like electric-vehicle maker Tesla Motors with its Roadster and Audi with its all-electric e-tron, is banking on potential buyers being willing to fork over six figures or so for high-quality electric-drive vehicles that provide the performance of a gasoline-guzzling sports car without guzzling gas.

Unlike the pure-electric Roadster and e-tron, the Karma is a gas-electric hybrid, capable of covering about 50 miles using only electricity following a full charge. After that, an onboard gasoline-fueled General Motors engine engages to produce juice for the lithium-ion battery pack. With electricity supplied by the generator, the vehicle can travel 300 more miles before refueling (via an electric outlet or a gas pump) is required. Fisker has said the Karma is capable of 100 miles per gallon, though the model could be driven without ever requiring gasoline depending on individual driving habits and usage.

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