The Car That Will Save Our Souls?
Fisker’s sleek hybrid Karma will pave the way for the everyman’s Nina, putting Delaware autoworkers back on track and helping drivers save the planet—while looking damned good.
(page 1 of 4)
Andy Brockson insists—three times in a 10-minute conversation—that he is not a tree hugger.
“But,” he admits, “I like the idea of being environmentally friendly. And I love my Prius.”
The problem is, “his” Prius—the gasoline-electric hybrid made by Toyota—has been commandeered by his 18-year-old daughter, who is about to head off to college. So Brockson, a 50-year-old Hockessin real estate agent, has been relegated to driving the family SUV. “And it kills me to put gas in that,” he says.
Enter the Fisker Karma.
Brockson and his 14-year-old son, Andrew, were among more than 300 car lovers who gathered at Wilmington’s Union Park dealership in late May to ogle the Karma, the world’s first premium plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV)—and a very sexy one, at that. To say Brockson was impressed is an understatement. Calling it “the Prius on steroids,” he promptly ponied up the down payment on the $87,900 luxury sedan, scheduled for delivery in the first quarter of 2012.
Now if there are 15,000 more Andy Brocksons out there, Fisker Automotive will sell all of its projected first-year production. That, in turn, would be great news for Delaware, because Karma’s success would bode well for the Fisker Nina, a smaller, lower-priced PHEV scheduled to be manufactured at the old General Motors Boxwood Plant beginning in the third quarter of 2012. There is also talk of Karma production moving to the 3.2-million-square-foot plant. At least until 2017, however, it will be made in Finland, at Valmet Automotive, which currently builds the Cayman and Boxster for Porsche.
The Nina will be priced at $47,400. With buyers eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit—also available to Karma buyers—it’s aimed at the mass market. Fisker hopes to roll out 100,000 Ninas by 2013 and 125,000 the following year. During its GM heyday, Boxwood had a capacity of 300,000.
In just three years, Irvine, California-based Fisker Automotive has moved at lightning speed (for the auto industry), developing two PHEVs while demonstrating a breathtaking ability to attract funding. It has raised $300 million in private equity and won a $528.7 million loan from the U. S. Department of Energy. That show of confidence from individuals and the federal government can be attributed largely to co-founders Henrik Fisker and Bernhard Koehler.
In a career that began in 1989 at BMW’s advanced design studio in Germany, Fisker has held prominent design positions with BMW, Ford Motor Co. and Aston Martin, where he was responsible for the production launch design of the DB9, variants of which were James Bond’s preferred vehicles.
Koehler began his career at 16 as an apprentice modeler and sculptor for BMW Design in Munich. He, too, held director positions in operations and design at BMW, Ford and Aston Martin.
Koehler was the company’s point man when Fisker began considering Boxwood as a production site soon after GM shuttered the 142-acre facility in June 2009. The closing left 450 people jobless and hurt countless vendors.
Page 2: The Car That Will Save Our Souls?, continues...