If and when it comes time to write the obituary for Fisker Automotive, there is one question that cannot be properly answered without a decade’s worth of historical perspective: Was the Karma—former BMW executive Henrik Fisker’s plug-in hybrid electric vehicle—the right car at the wrong time, or simply the wrong car, period?
There is, however, one aspect that can be reliably addressed at present. The Karma is a gorgeous vehicle, a fact that is helping to keep the company alive, at least for the time being. The Karma debuted at the 2008 North American Auto Show in Detroit, near the onset of the economic turndown. At the time, backers of the car were scarce and suppliers were hard-pressed to deliver what Fisker needed. The Delaware manufacturer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last November, and on February 12 its assets were auctioned off. Acquiring those assets for $149.2 million was the Wanxiang Group, China’s largest auto-parts supplier, which owns the former battery supplier for the Karma (and whose failure to deliver on its promise is arguably among the reasons that Fisker went bankrupt). Shortly after the sale, a Delaware bankruptcy-court judge approved the transaction, so the fate of Fisker and the Karma remain in the hands of Wanxiang.
And while the Fisker name and logo belong to another company—Fisker Coachbuild, which may or may not sell those assets to Wanxiang—the Chinese company seems committed to returning the Karma to production. Wanxiang will also have to decide to what extent, if any, it plans to warrant the existing Karmas. The company has said repeatedly that it wants to continue building the cars, which (if production starts up again) would be good news for those who need replacement parts, but the Karma was built with so many components from so many suppliers that it is difficult to say which of those companies will and will not continue to supply them. The gas engine, for example, was sourced through General Motors, which leads one to wonder if Wanxiang would use a Chinese engine supplier moving forward, even if (as the company says) it plans to assemble the cars in the United States.
The bottom line is that it remains to be seen if parts and extended warranties will be available for existing Karma owners. Those current owners and once-prospective buyers of the stylish hybrid car can hold out hope that, if Fisker’s new owner can find a way to keep the company alive in some form or another, the Karma may still be resurrected. (www.fiskerautomotive.com)