Published October 20, 2011
By Jeff Cobb
Fisker is now ready to start putting Karmas in customer driveways..
This week Fisker announced its effective approval by federal, California and European agencies needed for it to begin deliveries of its extended-range electric Karma to customers worldwide.
On the federal level, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) signed off and likewise the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized certification of the Karma's efficiency rating needed for North American sales.
The EPA test cycles determined lower-than-projected window sticker numbers indicating the Karma's MPGe rating to be 52, combined fuel mileage at 20 mpg, and all-electric range a 32 miles.
Fisker is still waiting for official approval from the stricter-than-Europe California Air Research
Board (CARB), but yesterday its Global Communications Director Roger Ormisher said it is a done deal, and will be finalized in a matter of days.
The positive news for advanced tech enthusiasts is this is now the second extended-range electric vehicle to begin selling in North America after the Chevy Volt.
GM might also feel validated by the Karma and models expected to follow built on design principles it first introduced, but it is not likely that it feels threatened.
The $95,900-plus Karma costs more than double what a packed Volt does, and its economy does not favorably compare to the 2012 Volt's EPA-rated 94 MPGe, 37 mpg combined fuel efficiency, and 35 miles of electric range.
Nor is it meant to, Ormisher said.
The over-5,200-pound luxury sportscar is catering to a different type of buyer, he said, adding many owners are expected to stay largely within all-electric range, and under typical usage scenarios, they stand to use very little fuel.
“If you had a 40 mile daily commute you’d only use nine gallons of gas a month and you’d be a thousand miles between fill ups in the car,” Ormisher said. “People are making comparisons with the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf and we’re not a Chevrolet Volt or a Nissan Leaf.”
No, Ormisher said, the Karma is more in line with a Maserati Quattroporte or Porsche Panamera, and compared to these and other cars in this class, the Karma’s 52 MPGe is quite good.
Further, the company believes the Karma will outperform the EPA’s figures and Ormisher said all-electric range approaching 50 miles on a charge should be attainable.
Karma EPA label.
To date, he said no existing pre-order customers or would-be customers have expressed inordinate criticism, nor backed out of any deals to buy the Karma upon learning the EPA numbers.
This we learned on a phone interview Ormisher gave us at 8 p.m. eastern time from Washington, D.C. after he had just finished fielding tough questions from other media outlets asking things like whether Fisker will be “the next Solyndra?”
Yesterday, underneath its subhead of “fair & balanced,” Fox News ran the headline, “ Fisker Karma a Fuel Economy Flop?”
Critics have also asked whether Fisker – which received a $529 million low interest federal loan – is wasting American taxpayers' money in the politicized arena surrounding initiatives to solve pressing energy issues.
The answer to all these expressed and implied concerns is the company sees no reason to worry, Ormisher said, as it is actually showing measurable progress.
Solyndra was working on a commodity, and Fisker is building a brand, he said, and circumstances for Fisker are entirely different.
Fisker, which is delivering “an absolutely new technology to the market,” is not in danger of failure and “has liquidity” he said, without confirming whether the reported $1 billion or so it may have in cash is a fact.
Overall, the company is calling the Karma news a “milestone,” and is fielding every question with optimism.
“We’re excited,” Ormisher said of the beginning of an American car company and delivery of first product.
The company now has around 40 Karmas being delivered as demonstrators in the U.S., and a boatload from Finland expected in port in a couple weeks or so has around 200 more designated for customers, he said.
He said the company is not going to predict whether it can meet a previously reported projection of 3,000 Karmas delivered worldwide by year’s end, but he did say Fisker will deliver a “significant number” of cars here and abroad.
European government regulations have also been cleared and deliveries should be getting cars some time in November he said, while explaining how a car from Finland made at the Valmet factory which also makes Porsche Caymans and Boxters is “American.”
Ormisher said the company is based in North America, designing product here, and hiring here.
Shown with optional lightweight solar roof.
When first starting the Karma project several years ago, Ormisher said Fisker approached GM, Ford and Chrysler to lease some assembly line space, or have them private label the Karma.
All of them declined, he said, so the aspiring American carmaker did what it had to and arranged for their manufacture where it could.
You can’t fault them for trying, Ormisher said, and in the mean time, Fisker bought a former GM plant in Wilmington, Del., and intends to assemble cars domestically as soon as feasible.
Models built in Wilmington will include BMW-engined Project Nina EVers priced around $47,000 before incentives that may give GM and the Volt something to be concerned about.
At this stage, Ormisher said the company feels like creating the globally certified Karma “from absolute zero” inside of four years beat the normal development time of OEMs, has been a success thus far, and will yet be.