You know all those times when you have seen the early designs of a car that looks spectacular, but when it makes it into production some time later, somehow the engineers have managed to remove every ounce of excitement the designers had imagined, making it look nothing like the picture above? There are exceptions of course. I remember the first time I saw an Aston Martin DB9 some 10 years ago, that looked pretty much like it came straight off the designer’s table. Shortly thereafter I learnt that the DB9 had partly been designed by a Dane named Henrik Fisker. A few years later the same Fisker, who had previously been at BMW designing the Z8, left Aston Martin. He went on to work on the early design of other car beauties such as the Artega and Tesla Model S, and then in 2007 together with a German partner founded Fisker Automobile, the company that two years later presented the Fisker Karma – a car often referred to as one of the most beautiful automobiles ever and a testimony to what cars could look like if all car brands hat designers running the show!
The Karma is a spectacular so-called plug-in hybrid, launched in 2011 and produced at the Valmet factory in Finland. It is powered by two 150 kW-engines producing a total of 408 hp, with the energy being delivered through a 175 kW generator, in turn powered by a 4-cylinder petrol engine. This means that the car has a range in fully electrical mode of 80 kms (Stealth Mode in Fisker-language), or over 400 kms in combined mode. The latter allows for a top speed of 200 km/h and a 0-100 km/h time of under 6 seconds.
The engines are however only half the story with a Karma. Apart from its sheer beauty the whole car is a high-tech construction. The 5-metre long and 2-metre wide aluminium body’s roof integrates a 120 kW solar panel that in sunny conditions helps extend the electrical range, alternatively can be used as park heating. The interior has carpets made of recycled PET bottles, and all leather and wood used in the beautiful finished cabin has been recycled. As you would suspect however, much like the Tesla, at 2.5 tons there is nothing high-tech about the car’s weight. But at least, again like the Tesla, the batteries are positioned low, hereby improving the car’s stability and handling.
The Karma generally received positive reviews and the press praised its driveability, quality of suspension and actually even quality of design. After some quality issues had been remedied after the first 500 cars, it was mostly the infotainment system that received more critical notes.
Unfortunately, in spite of a convincing success concept, Fisker quickly learnt that building cars is not a cheap venture and that maybe, just maybe, those boring engineers may have their justification. The company quickly ran into financial difficulties and production was suspended late 2012, with Fisker going on to file for bankruptcy in 2013. At that point only around 1800 cars had been delivered in North America and Europe, at a new price of 110′-140′ EUR depending on version and trim. Most of these stayed in the US and only a few hundred made it to Europe. Today the new price has more than halved, and a low-km Karma in its top EcoChic trim can be had for around 50′ CHF/EUR. Most cars are in fact still covered by the warranty (through the general importer from the time in each market), and many European countries will subsidy their fixed costs thanks to the low emissions!
So there you go. A design that very rarely makes it into production and arguably one of the most beautiful cars in modern times, and one that will in the future be regarded as one of the pioneers of the electrical car era, for less than half the new price. It is not a car for those shy of attention but for all others, it should prove a convincing case both driving- and investment wise!
The Swedish speakers among you can learn even more on the Karma and how it is to drive from my fellow blogger Sven’s post back in 2012, by clicking here.