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Chinese-owned Fisker hopes to relaunch Karma in 2015

A plan for Fisker Automotive Inc. is solidifying that would put the company’s gas-electric hybrid Karma luxury automobile back on the road in mid-2015, according to its newly appointed interim president.

The hope is that the newly launched car, backed by the deep pockets of Chinese auto-parts company Wanxiang, will be free of the bugs that drove Fisker into bankruptcy last year.

A second, station-wagon-like version of the $100,000-plus Karma, called the Surf, could ship in 2016. And a lower-cost vehicle, the Atlantic, might come in 2017, Fisker President Roger Brown said in an interview.

“We don’t know if we would keep Fisker Automotive as the company (name),” said Brown, a managing partner at Nashville, Tenn.-based Summit Strategic Investments who has worked with Wanxiang for years. “The cars are the rock stars.”

According to Brown, the plan’s execution is subject to a number of moving parts. That includes establishing a new headquarters for the bankrupt company, deciding whether cars will be produced at a plant Fisker owns in Delaware, and where Fisker will get the more than 200 people Brown estimates will be needed to work on the various projects.

“Wanxiang is not flashy. They bought this company, they paid cash for it, they don’t put any debt on their company and they execute,” Brown said. “They didn’t buy the company to export the technology to China. … They bought it because they want to build a great car company.”

Up until its bankruptcy filing, Fisker called Anaheim, Calif., home. Then it moved to temporary space in Costa Mesa, Calif.

“We’re looking for a (permanent) CEO in the next 90 days,” Brown said. For engineering and other work, “we are currently looking at a lot of the prior employees. We have a database of people that have reached out to Fisker over the years looking for employment. … We’ve been flooded with people that want to come back.”

A tentative settlement last week in the bankruptcy case officially shifted ownership from Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li to Wanxiang. Summit Strategic Investments specializes in transforming troubled assets. Last year, Summit bought Segway, the maker of the gyro-stabilized stand-up scooter.

Brown heads a group of about 25 people at Fisker — the only staffers who remain after 150 people were laid off one year ago. Poor sales and buggy cars finally drained Fisker Automotive of the $1.2 billion it had raised from private investments and $192 million from federal taxpayers.

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