Author: Nauman Farooq
In the world of car design, Henrik Fisker is one of the most well-known names in the industry.
Having worked at BMW where he was responsible for the complete design of the Z8 roadster, a car I still say is the best looking BMW of all time.
He then moved over to Aston Martin as their design chief, and not only completed work on the DB9 coupe and convertible, but also gave them full design work on the V8 Vantage coupe and roadster, a car that has gone onto becoming the most successful Aston Martin production car ever.
It was during his time at Aston Martin when I first met with Henrik and we have kept in touch ever since.
So back in 2005, when Henrik started a new car company called Fisker Coachbuild, he invited a select few journalists to try out his prototypes, of which I was one.
The cars produced under that banner were the Fisker Tramonto (based on a Mercedes-Benz SL55) and the Latigo CS (based on the BMW M6); both produced in very limited numbers and will surely be highly desirable collector cars in the future.
Than late in 2007, Henrik sent me an e-mail saying, he has a surprise for everyone at the 2008 North American International Auto Show, and what a surprise it was. The Fisker Karma Plug-in Hybrid was introduced, a car that wowed the crowd and was voted by many publications as the star of the show.
Many detractors and cynics however said that many companies have come and gone and wondered if we would see this car past the auto show stage.
Twelve months later Fisker is back at the 2009 North American International Auto Show, with not only the production version of the Karma sedan, but also a new concept car, called the Karma Sunset, a hard-top convertible version of the Karma sedan.
To find out more about his upcoming production car, the new concept car and many other things, I sat down with the man himself to find out more about his company.
Q. Henrik, you are Danish, your partner (Bernhard Koehler) is German, the car will be built in Finland and the company head office is in California, U.S.A. so is this a new American car company?
HF. I like to think we are a Global car company, because a car can be built anywhere while its headquarters can be at another part of the world, just like Nike is an American company but has its products made elsewhere. We are an American company because we are based here and we do all the design and engineering work here. We even have an engineering facility in Pontiac, Michigan.
Q. How many people work for Fisker Automotive right now?
HF. Because we are working with many suppliers, there are hundreds of people working for our company at the moment, but purely Fisker Automotive full-time employees are just under a 100.
Q. Describe the drivetrain for the Karma?
HF. We have a plug-in hybrid drive system, developed by our partner company Quantum Technologies, which allows our car to travel 80km on a full overnight charge. Once the battery has run out, an on-board gas engine will kick-in to take you the rest of the way, so our car has no mileage limitations like other plug-in vehicles.
Q. Tesla has been having issues with their two-speed gearbox, what kind of gearbox does the Karma have?
HF. The Karma doesn’t have a gearbox, it has direct drive. Even the gas engine does not power the wheels directly; it powers a generator which then sends power to the two electric motors which drive the wheels.
Q. Why was the GM Ecotec Turbo engine chosen for this vehicle?
HF. Many people have asked why such a powerful engine was chosen for this car, and the reason is to be able to continuously sustain its top speed of 200 km/h. With this engine we found what we were looking for, a compact, direct injected, fuel-efficient engine that produces a lot of power. So you can drive it at its maximum speed all the time if you want, and this powertrain can handle it.
Q. What’s the performance like then?
HF. It develops 403hp, it can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in under six seconds, and top speed is electronically limited to 200 km/h.
Q. When will the car go on sale?
HF. It will be on sale in November of this year, and we plan to produce 15,000 cars a year. We already have over 1300 orders for the car and it hasn’t even gone on sale yet.
Q. Will it be sold in Canada?
HF. We want to sell it globally and hence the car was designed to meet the highest standards from the world over. When you get a chance, ask Vic Doolan and he will tell you if any Canadian dealers have been set up.
(I tracked down Mr. Doolan, who is incharge of setting the global dealership network for the brand, and he said, one Vancouver dealership is confirmed, and he is currently in talks with some Toronto and Montreal dealers and hope to have them finalized soon too.)
Before I could ask him even more questions, it was time for his next appointment; he had a very busy day planned. As I was leaving the auto show, I met him briefly to say goodbye, and he said “I’ll get you a drive in the Karma this year, see you then.”
Now that is one test drive I can’t wait to do.