The last ten years of the car industry has been in the sign of electric vehicles and advanced technologies. All major car companies are sponsoring innovative startups, and brands like Tesla, Rimac, or Polestar has grown from a small project into global and very influential players. However, there is one name missing. A true industry`s pioneer and the company which had all the right ingredients but somehow disappeared from the scene after just a few turbulent years in the business.
The Man Behind The Name
Fisker Automotive is the brainchild of Henrik Fisker, a renowned car designer who penned some of the most beautiful BMWs, Aston Martins, and Fords in recent history. After leaving Aston Martin in 2005, Fisker entered the highly exclusive world of boutique and coach-built sports cars and started producing two models – the Fisker Latigo CS (based on the BMW 645) and the Fisker Tramonto (based on the Mercedes SL55 AMG). However, it looked like his mind was set on building its own cars not just re-bodied the existing ones, so he started Fisker Automotive in 2007 as a company which is dedicated to making one of the first plug-in hybrid luxury vehicles in the world.
Even though Tesla was established several years before Fisker, in the beginning, it looked like Fisker had a better start. The company managed to acquire significant investments from various investment funds, government support, and essential contract with major battery produced. The first and only model was called the Fisker Karma and it luxury cars with sublime styling and a supercar stance, filled with advanced technology and powered by a 2.0-liter Ecotec turbo engine along with two electric motors. The Karma was filled with exciting design and engineering solutions like a solar panel roof, a centrally mounted battery pack even a warning sound system which alerts the pedestrians of its presence, mainstream tech now. The starting price when the vehicle was launched in 2011 was $102,000, and the interest of wealthy buyers was enormous.
It was obvious that the Karma was rushed in production since the car was developed from concept to production-car status in just couple of years, which is far below the industry standard especially if you are building the advanced and innovative vehicle. So, nobody was shocked when owners reported numerous problems with the hardware as well as the software of Karmas. Due to production difficulties, production was stopped and restarted, and some deadlines were missed. Of course, the next thing to follow was the recalls which affected the company`s image, public perception, and stock market worth. However, the biggest hit to the company was the bankruptcy of its main battery supplier which happened in late 2012, which crippled Fisker Karmas production.
The Financial Situation
During its short life, Fisker Automotive, according to some reports, was able to acquire around 1.3 billion dollars in investments from various venture capital funds and US government grants. Fisker also got a $529 million loan from the US Department of Energy but missed the first payment before they went into bankruptcy in late 2013. The company managed to build and sell around 2600 cars globally, and experts say that on every $102,000 Karma that Fisker sold, it managed to lose over half of million dollars! How is that possible? Well, Fisker had very expensive production methods; the assembly was located in Finland, the company invested heavily in specific components and recalls and production problems proved to be very expensive. Even with the good initial response from the buyers, Fisker needed much more customers to break even.
Tesla vs. Fisker
If we look at the reviews and expectations of car journalists from ten years ago, we could see that all bets were on Fisker. Simply, on paper, the company had a better start, better-looking car, more practical plug-in technology, and more celebrities interested in buying it. Tesla even sued Fisker in 2008 claiming that Fisker has stolen some technology patents which Elon Musk developed for upcoming Model S. However, the court dismissed those allegations and awarded Fisker with over $1 million in damages. From this perspective, it is evident that Tesla had a better business model and approach to production since they managed to build over 200,000 cars compared to around 2600 Fisker Karmas.
The Future Of Fisker
If you think the story of Fisker Automotive is over, you are mistaken. Even though the original company is no longer active, Henrik Fisker established Fisker Inc and is working on an inexpensive electric SUV which should debut soon. Also, the remains of Fisker Automotive was bought by a Chinese company called Waxiang. In 2017, Karma Automotive unveiled the Karma Revero which is basically an improved Fisker Karma available in a plug-in hybrid form for just over $130,000. So, if you are in the market for a luxury plug-in hybrid with gorgeous looks and interesting story, then you might consider a Karma or Revero.