The Electric Fisker Karma Is Back—And This Time It Works
Like Jon Snow, the Fisker Karma was just too pretty to stay dead. And like the beloved “Game of Thrones” character, the plug-in hybrid electric sports car has overcome a cruel fate with a bout of resurrection.
The newly christened Karma Revero looks much like the old car, and that’s a good thing. The original was the work of Henrik Fisker, the guy who designed the superlative BMW Z8 and Aston Martin DB9. In an era when going green meant being seen in a Prius, Fisker wanted to make ditching gasoline look fabulous.
In 2011, he launched the Karma, which could drive about 30 miles on pure electricity, then use a gas engine as a generator when the batteries went flat. Justin Bieber, Al Gore, and Leonardo DiCaprio were customers. The US government loaned the company nearly $200 million to advance the environmental cause. Car magazines threw design and innovation awards at the startup.
Then it all fell apart. Fisker knew how to draw a lovely car, but the realities of the auto industry defeated him. The company burned through cash and missed production deadlines, then rushed the Karma to market to stimulate cash flow. Reviewers slammed the car for poor reliability, build quality, and a dismaying habit of catching on fire. Fisker’s sole battery supplier went bust, and the automaker followed it into bankruptcy in 2013.
But Chinese auto parts giant Wanxiang scooped up the defunct company’s assets and created Karma Automotive to bring the car back to life. The California-based outfit has spent the last year improving every key component, and tidying things up a little too, adding a better infotainment system and a solar panel roof that actually charges the batteries (a bit).
To see how the reborn electric compares to the original, we headed out the the company’s Moreno Valley HQ and slid into the tenth prototype of the newly rebuilt production line (shipped over from Finland). Our test drive revealed the car mixes the charm of its predecessor with much-needed improvements. Most importantly—and this was not a guarantee—it didn’t break down in the first half hour.
That’s an upgrade over the original, but now Karma must persuade people with $100,000 to burn that the Revero’s a better choice than a Tesla, or the many plug-in hybrids coming from Porsche, Bentley, BMW, Audi, Mercedes, or anyone else. The market’s gotten crowded since 2011. Now that it’s worked out the kinks—it hopes—Karma needs buyers to forgive the checkered history and embrace the Revero.
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