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. You guessed it; we are talking about Fisker and today we will try to explain what has happened to it.

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 – Fisker Latigo CS (based on BMW 645) and Fisker Tramonto (based on 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 a first proper plug-in hybrid luxury vehicle in the world.

Fisker Karma

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 Fisker Karma and it luxury cars with sublime styling and a supercar stance, filled with advanced technology and powered by 2.0-liter Ecotec turbo engine along with two electric motors.

The Karma was filled with exciting design and engineering solutions like solar panel roof, battery pack which is mounted in the center of the car and even a warning sound system which alerted the pedestrians of its presence. The starting price when the vehicle was launched in 2011 was $102,000, and the interest of wealthy buyers was enormous.

The Problems

It was obvious that Karma was rushed in production since the car was developed 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 the Fisker Karma 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 $529 million loan from US Department of Energy and missed the first payments before 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 the 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 over 200,000 cars compared to around 2600 Fisker Karmas.

The Future

If you think that 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 inexpensive electric SUV which should debut soon. Also, the remains of Fisker Automotive was bought by Chinese company Waxiang and remained to Karma Automotive. In 2017, Karma Automotive presented the Karma Revero which is basically the same but slightly improved Fisker Karma which is available in a plug-in hybrid form for just over $130,000.

Credit: Autoviva CC-BY

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, Fisker or Revero, it doesn’t matter.