Karma Automotive, the luxury car company rising from the ashes of Fisker, just opened its first Detroit office as it draws closer to revealing details of the sleek plug-in hybrid it will build in California.
Reborn after its bankruptcy and purchase by Wanxiang Group, a well-heeled privately owned Chinese supplier, Karma is hiring dozens of engineers to work in its new Detroit office, which will work on product engineering and supplier quality.
“We’ve got 25 people packed like sardines into an office in Rochester now. We’re adding space to get more qualified people,” said Karma Chief Marketing Officer Jim Taylor, an auto industry veteran who developed the vehicles that began Cadillac’s revitalization and eventually ran the luxury brand. He joined the company in March 2014. His karmic responsibilities include marketing, design, product planning and sales
The office represents a merger of California electronics and design with Detroit engineering and manufacturing expertise.
Karma’s hiring engineers in suburban Detroit now. It has about 620 employees in southern California, where a new factory is building the first few units of its sleek car.
“There are a huge number of Detroiters running around this West Coast company,” Taylor said. “It’s the best of both words: We’re in the backyard of so much aerospace and electronics engineering and we’ve got a bunch of Detroit engineers who know how to get a car into production. Having a Detroit office will help a lot.”
The approach is at odds with the popular perception of a schism between the auto and electronics industries, a perception largely fed by Tesla founder Elon Musk’s disdain for established automakers.
“It’s a very smart move,” Autotrader senior analyst Michelle Krebs said. “There’s real strength in bridging the gap between Silicon Valley and the Motor City. Detroit knows how to build cars. It’s not just Karma. Google and others are doing it, too.”
Karma’s Troy office, in a complex shared with suppliers and engineering companies, will hold about 80 people. It will include facilities for prototype build and teardown, a couple of car hoists and desks for engineers who divide their time between Karma HQ in Costa Mesa in Southern California and Detroit. The company has about 620 employees in southern California, including some building pilot vehicles at a 500,000 square-foot factory in Moreno Valley, 55 miles from Karma’s office..
That’s a huge change from the way Fisker, Karma’s predecessor, built cars. Fisker — named for Henrik Fisker, who designed the car and is now a freelance designer — hired a contractor to assemble cars in Finland and ship them to the U.S.
“We decided to make cars ourselves this time,” Taylor said. “There’s a far greater probability of success when you’re building cars in your backyard. If there’s a question or an issue, we can get to the plant and deal with it right away.”
When Wanxiang bought Karma out of bankruptcy — along with supplier A123 Systems, which makes Karma’s lithium-ion batteries — the new owners packed up all the tools to build the car and shipped them from Finland. Less than a year later, Karma is building cars in the new factory.
Karma hasn’t revealed a lot of details about the second generation of its car. The drivetrain is similar to the extended-range electric power plant in a Chevy Volt. EPA tests showed the original Fisker Karma could go 33 miles on battery power. A 2.0-liter gasoline engine switched on automatically for another 201 miles of range before stopping for fuel. A solar roof helps keep the car charged.
Prices for the Fisker Karma started at $102,000. The company sold about 1,800 in the U.S. and Europe, many of which are still on the road. There’s no official word on prices for the reborn Karma, but expect it to go north of $120,000.
The new car looks very much like the swoopy sedan Fisker designed. The body, suspension and engine are very much like the first car, but the electronics are almost all new. “If it’s got bolts, it hasn’t changed much, if it has electrons, it’s all new,” Taylor said with a smile. Karma will start slow, aiming to sell a few thousand cars in its first couple of years
Will Karma’s fate be better the second time around?
We’ll get the first hint when the company reveals details and undisguised photos of its new car in early August.
Source By freep…