The California-based company is opening a new factory and hiring hundreds of workers. The Fisker Karma is coming back. But will car enthusiasts buy it? Fisker Automotive and Technology—the resurrected luxury electric carmaker that famously crashed and burned after an auspicious beginning—is setting up shop in California. The company, which was acquired out of bankruptcy last year by Wanxiang America, plans to re-launch its Karma vehicle at a 555,670-square-foot factory in Moreno Valley, Calif.
The company expects to create 150 full-time manufacturing jobs at the factory. About 240 people work at the company’s headquarters in Costa Mesa, less than 60 miles from the new factory.
While the company had talked about renaming the car, spokeswoman Judy Hoste told Fortune that for now, the new car will also be named Karma. Fisker is not disclosing details about when it will begin production or the price of the car.
Right now, the company is shipping all of its tooling from the Finland facility that once made the Karma. “There’s a lot to be done before we start making cars,” Hoste said, including hiring staff and preparing the factory, which was initially built as a spec distribution center.
Just a few years ago, the Fisker Karma was the must-have toy of the rich and famous. Actor and Fisker investor Leonardo DiCaprio was one of the first to receive one. Former U.S. vice president Al Gore, pop star Justin Beiber and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also owned Karmas. Gore is a partner, and Powell, a strategic advisor, of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, which invested in Fisker.
Those heady days were short-lived however. The company ran out of cash and into a series of roadblocks, notably a software glitch and problems with batteries made by A123 Systems. In late 2011, just a month after Fisker Automotive’s first car was crowned luxury car of the year by BBC Top Gear magazine, the company had to recall 239 Karmas because of a faulty electric battery component that could cause a fire. Only about 2,000 of the cars, which were manufactured in Finland, were ever made.
Wanxiang America, the same company that bought battery supplier A123 Systems, purchased Fisker’s assets for $149.2 million. Wanxiang America is the U.S. arm of China Wanxiang Group, an automotive parts supplier headquartered in the eastern Chinese city Hangzhou.
Last year in a presentation to creditors, Wanxiang said it planned to build hybrid Karmas alongside a gas-guzzling cousin, the Destinos. The Destino is a luxury sports car made by VL Automotive in Michigan that has the same body as the Karma, but is outfitted with a V8 engine. However, those plans never went beyond discussions, Hoste said.
Now that Fisker appears to be getting another chance at life, the question remains: will car enthusiasts be willing to buy the Karma over a more proven electric car like the Tesla Model S, the soon-to-debut Model X or even the ultra-luxe electric supercar being developed by Silicon Valley’s Renovo Motors.
By Kirsten Korosec Courtesy Fortune Magazine