Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fisker To Reveal Project Nina At New York Auto Show

Published March 22, 2012

By Jeff Cobb

Last week Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher called to follow-up, and I asked when we’d get to see the pending 2013 Nina variants. He said “that's a good question,” and that he’d have news soon.

And sure enough, Fisker said yesterday that it will reveal its long-anticipated extended-range EV platform April 3 at the New York Auto Show. We are unsure whether all three versions known to exist will be shown, or Fisker will highlight more details of a first iteration, then, as it has with the Karma, reveal other siblings at later dates.

The email we got was brief with a two-dimensional sketch, but it has previously been said these cars are quite eye-catching, and given Henrik Fisker’s past achievements, this would almost be expected.

That said, Fisker has caught a fair degree of public relations heat in light of minor Karma recalls, lower than projected EPA numbers, and price increases, among other complaints.

The goal of the Karma was to be a high-profile, lower volume intro to establish that the company could design world-class cars. Its upper-$40,000-plus Ninas are to be higher volume, and produced in its rehabbed former GM plant in Wilmington, Del.

Not much definitive is known about the Ninas as the cars have been kept from public – but that a sedan, coupe and crossover were already in the works was divulged when Vice President Joe Biden let the cat out of the bag at an appearance at the just-purchased Delaware plant in October 2009.

What is known is that rather than specifying a GM-based turbo four, as the Karma has, the Ninas are to utilize a four-cylinder gasoline-powered generator supplied by BMW to pair with its A123 System battery pack.

To those who perceive higher quality and smoothness from BMW – the GM engines can get kind of noisy when on the boil – this aspect may be good news.

In question with industry watchers however is the aforementioned contention that the Karma is as world-class as its maker presents, and unknown is how the Ninas will be received after the perceived foibles of its big brother.

Another criticism the aspiring American automaker has had to answer is that it built its Karma in Finland after taking the first one-third of a $529 million U.S. Department of Energy loan. But although it may not be clearly reported often enough, that the Karma would be outsourced was always fully disclosed prior to taking the money.

Further, Fisker says it has designated all of the first $193 million of the (now frozen) taxpayer funds to the Nina project, which is to create jobs in Delaware and secondarily jobs on the supply and distribution side of the endeavor.

We have heard a few sides of the debate about Fisker, and understand concerns over the government “picking winners” and “gambling” taxpayer money to get the aspiring U.S. manufacturer going.

Others have said subsidies and loans are a needed leg up in a stringent economic environment compounded by tens of thousands of pages of regulations presenting an effective gauntlet for any automaker to start from scratch.

To its credit, the green carmaker has had plausible answers to much of the mud thrown at it, and Fisker says it is still working toward the same goal it had when it started – to create an American-based brand with global impact.

We often hear people say off-the-cuff that this company will not make it. If you think so, can you make a case as to why? Or if you are optimistic, why is there reason to think along those lines?

Like everything else we report on, we are not advocating for, or hating against; we’re just following the story, and are interested in your thoughts as well.


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