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.
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The cars will be marketed through a global network that includes 45 U.S. retail locations and about the same number in Europe. “We’ll also be expanding into Asian markets like China and Japan,” says Koehler, adding that there are plans to increase the retailer network by 2012 to support the demand that will be created by introduction of up to six additional models.
One of the American distributors, Jim Ursomarso, vice president of Union Park Auto Group in Wilmington, says the Karma has “two levels of appeal.”
“It’s a stunning vehicle, a very curvy, large sedan about the size of the BMW 7 series or Mercedes 500, but it looks more like a Ferrari, like a $200,000 car,” he says. “It’s a high performance luxury car, with the finest leather and electronics. So you’ve got the design and the performance. If that was it, the car still might be a hit, because there’s nothing like it at that price point.
“But then you’ve got the whole aspect of the hybrid. It’s got solar panels on the roof that power the AC system, so it’s eco-friendly. And you can drive the car for 50 miles on the battery, and then the gasoline engine will provide the charge for the battery and keep the car running after that. So this can be somebody’s everyday car. You don’t have to worry about running out of charge. If you drive 50 miles or less a day, like I do, you won’t use any gasoline. Other vehicles are all electric. When you run out, you run out. Recharging takes several hours.”
When a Karma is sold, Ursomarso explains, the dealer will arrange to install a 220-volt outlet at the customer’s home. A piece of equipment connects the car to the outlet.
The smaller Nina, Ursomarso says, “looks a lot like the Karma,” though comparable in size to the BMW 3 series or a Mercedes C class vehicle.
Industry experts are being cautious in their predictions for Fisker. “The Karma looks very attractive and unique, which should help it to be a new toy to have at the high end of the market,” says Huei Peng, executive director of interdisciplinary and professional engineering programs at the University of Michigan. “However, I will be very surprised if it sells more than a couple thousand units.”
Bruce Belzowski, associate director of the automotive analysis division at the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan, says it’s “too early to make a call” on either the Karma or the Nina. The plug-in aspect, in particular, he says, “is unclear at this point.”
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