Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mr. Fisker�"s Green Car Opus

Henrik Fisker and the Karma

There�"s no doubt that Henrik Fisker is a master auto designer. His previous creations include the BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9 and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

Like a sculptor who refuses to unveil his masterwork until his creation is complete, Henrik Fisker has kept his gorgeous $87,900 four-door plug-in hybrid under wraps. Yes, Fisker Automotive has shown off numerous variations of the Fisker Karma at major auto shows in the past few years. But a vehicle is not a stationary object d�"art. It must be driven to be understood and appreciated, and so far, Fisker is not letting anybody outside the company take a ride. (His Royal Highness, Crown Prince of Denmark�who spent some time behind the wheel�doesn�"t count.)

Perhaps a better metaphor for Fisker is the film auteur, as in Francis Ford Copolla of the Apocalypse Now era. The Fisker Karma was originally promised for delivery in late 2009, which slipped to mid-2010, and now looks like late 2010. Like Copolla lost on location in the jungles, perfecting his opus and running over budget, Fisker is running up expenses and taking on more debt (another $115 million in venture funding in January)�while raising still more money for a factory/studio to produce an entire line of green dream machines.

According to Reuters report earlier this month, Fisker says the company will be fully funded by the end of 2010, and that by 2011, it will be cash flow positive and producing 15,000 Karma sedans a year from its contract plant in Finland. With another half-billion dollars pledged as a loan from the US government (plus other venture backing), the company is promising by 2014 to produce 100,000 vehicles a year�including a more affordable plug-in hybrid and the second-generation Karma�from a refurbished Delaware plant previous owned by General Motors.

"Mr. De Mille, I'm Ready for My Close-up"

There�"s a reason that investors keep investing and green car fans patiently keep waiting. The Fisker script is compelling. A rebel auto designer bucks the system, and bests other courageous start-ups (see: Tesla Roadster) by producing a beautiful, practical and ultra-green sports car. The four-seat 400-horsepower Fisker Karma is powered by two electric motors and a turbocharged 2.0-liter 260-horsepower four-cylinder engine. The battery pack holds enough energy storage for 50 miles of all-electric driving. Running low on juice? No problem. Use gas for another 250 miles (or at least until you can go for a quick fill-up at a regular old gas station).

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