Now that Justin Bieber has a Fisker what’s a Fisker?

13 Июн 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Now that Justin Bieber has a Fisker what’s a Fisker? отключены
Fisker Karma

Now that Justin Bieber has a Fisker, what’s a Fisker?


You know you’ve made an impact when one of your plug-in hybrid sedans turns up on Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime talk show being presented as an 18th birthday present to teen heartthrob Justin Bieber.

Such was the case last week when the Beeb received the surprise gift: the new Fisker Karma. The singing sensation is just the latest of the Hollywood elite reportedly tooling around in a $102,000 Karma, joining the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Karma is the first product of a start-up car company, an attempt to unite the latest in luxury car style — the slope-backed auto resembles a Jaguar or an Audi A7 — with plug-in hybrid economy. With a name like Karma, you know it’s oh-so-Hollywood: It even has an animal-products-free (no leather) edition.

The Karma is rated as being capable of going 33 miles or more on electric power before its gas engine kicks in. It can be recharged overnight in a garage from a standard electrical outlet.

The car is the brainchild of Danish-born auto designer Henrik Fisker, who is best known for his designs at BMW. In nursing the dream of bringing style to electric cars, his timing couldn’t have been better:

He appeared with a mockup of the car at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit a year before a new Democratic administration was looking to fund promising alternative-energy endeavors.

But star power won’t be enough to make a success of Fisker Automotive. Even as it launches its first model, Fisker is having its share of teething troubles:

Fisker has been cut off from the rest of its $529 million in Energy Department loans, after drawing more than $190 million. About $24 million was being used to develop its next product, a lower-price sedan yet to be unveiled that is to be built at a refitted former General Motors plant in Delaware. The so-called Project Nina is now on hold, and 50 workers were laid off after Fisker failed to meet milestones that were conditions of the loan. Fisker hopes to restart it with private money. Investors have already sunk more than $850 million in the automaker since its founding, the company says.

But because of the federal loans, Fisker has become a political football. The Energy Department loan program has gotten more scrutiny after solar panel maker Solyndra’s loan went bad. In addition, $169 million in Fisker’s government loans has been spent — all in the U.S.

Fisker emphasizes — to develop the Karma, but the car is being built by a contract manufacturer in Finland.

Fisker underwent a management shake-up last week. Henrik Fisker will move into the background as executive chairman, focusing more on design. Former Chrysler Group executive Tom LaSorda is taking over as CEO.

While generally well-received in press reviews so far, the Karma was government-rated at just 54 miles-per-gallon equivalent, only 4 mpg more than a standard Toyota Prius hybrid. And although the Fisker is fairly big on the outside, it was government-designated as a subcompact because it’s fairly cramped inside.

Still, it’s a triumph that Anaheim, Calif.-based automaker Fisker was able to create a luxury car from scratch and get it into production. More than 1,500 have been made, so far. The company, which has almost 500 employees in the U.S. is already talking about building another version of the Karma with a hatchback, a style popular in Europe, where the car also is on sale.

The Karma itself is a technical wonder. It has both a stealth mode, in which the driver can choose to travel on electric only, and a sport mode for a mix of electricity and the gas engine. The car emits a Jetsons-like chirp to warn pedestrians that it’s coming when running in stealth.

The 22-inch wheels don’t exactly promote better gas mileage than smaller, lighter wheels would, but were considered a concession to style.

Fisker Karma

The Fisker handles well, but is so low slung that drivers need to hit the brakes to avoid scraping the front air dam on speed bumps or sudden dips in the roadway.

The cockpit is plenty comfortable, but the rear seat is cramped. The battery pack runs down the center of the car, front to rear, at elbow level, leaving each passenger with the feeling they inhabit their own distinct pod. Still, the Karma has a growing list of fans.

They did an amazing job, says Ron Cogan, publisher of the Green Car Journal. When he drove the Karma recently at the its Los Angeles press launch, of the Karma, people would roll down their windows and say, ‘That is the best-looking car that I’ve seen.’

But Chelsea Sexton, an electric-car activist who also took a turn at the wheel, expressed concern about what she considered cheap touches. It definitely had some quality issues, she said. You can see (plastic) through the front grille.

Henrik Fisker is quick to defend it.

Sure, the Karma was designated a subcompact car, in part because the battery pack forms a center divider in the low-slung cabin and takes up space. But Fisker says the designation is meaningless, since luxury models such as the Bentley Continental GTC and Aston Martin Rapide also are designated compact. I don’t think anyone pays attention to that.

Likewise, the car’s modest overall fuel-economy rating for a plug-in isn’t cause for concern, the founder says. Fisker says the car’s electric-only mode covers nearly his entire 55-mile commute each way every workday.

Karma has been behind schedule getting to market, but Fisker underscores that it still went from concept to showroom in about 48 months. We came out with this car before (plug-ins from) German and Japanese competitors, he says.

Roland Hwang, transportation program director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, is sympathetic: In the bigger scheme of things, we all know that there will be a few bumps in road on the way to introducing any new technology.

Fisker Karma
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