That other American extended-range automaker – Fisker – recently cut a large engine supply deal with BMW for its pending Project Nina line, and this month will show the “Surf,” a “shooting brake” version of its Karma at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
Fisker’s Karma-inspired Nina extended-range vehicles – to ultimately consist of a mid-size sedan, coupe and crossover – are to begin production in a former GM plant in Wilmington, Del., by the end of next year.
The company says the vehicles will sell for around $40,000 (after federal subsidies) and this will mean they might just compete favorably with the Chevy Volt, although the company is not saying this officially.
“We have said that the car will be priced around half the price of a Fisker Karma and will compete with cars in the Audi A4/A6, Mercedes C/E class sectors,” said Fisker’s Director, Global Communications & PR, Roger Ormisher.
Unlike the flagship Karma which for now uses a kind-of-rough 2.0-liter GM turbo four, the Nina line’s genset will be a 2.0-liter BMW turbo four. The German automaker has agreed to deliver as many as 100,000 units per year.
“The BMW engine was an obvious choice for us, as BMW is known for producing the best and most fuel efficient gasoline engines in the world,” said Fisker’s CEO and Executive Design Director, Henrik Fisker. “We are very pleased to have signed this agreement with BMW.”
Fisker is probably also pleased that it has somewhere around $1 billion in working capital, part of that being what’s left from a $529 million U.S. Department of Energy loan.
With its existing first offering, and pending Nina line, it is rapidly working toward competing with GM’s Voltec platform while using GM’s own cast-off engines and failed assembly plants to get the job done.
Of the government and other dollars the Scandinavian transplant company has received, it has dedicated $175 million to revamp the last of the major Northeastern U.S. auto plants.
GM’s former 3.2 million square-foot (297,000 square-meter) factory opened in 1947, and closed in 2009, its last vehicle made being a Pontiac Solstice convertible.
California-based Fisker also recently established a European office in Munich, and has said that both the Karma and Project Nina lines are to be global vehicles. Their sales will likely be split between the U.S. and Europe (40 percent each), with Asia (20 percent) providing the remainder.
We have no word whether GM-Volt contributor nasaman’s latest review of the Karma had anything to do with Fisker’s decision to go with a “shooting brake” (wagon-like) version for the Karma, but his assessment was spot-on. He and others have found its trunk unacceptably small.
Squeezing the range-extended (“EVer”) powertrain into the Karma necessitated the design compromise of the tiny boot. Extending the vehicle’s rear into something like a shapely squareback will fix that practical consideration.
Until today, no shooting brake Karma photos were available, and a report by the UK publication, Car.com which broke the story, says the world will see more of it this month in Frankfurt.
Word is also that a two-door Karma cabriolet – first seen in 2009 – will in time be made into another option making for three Karma variants to go with the three Ninas.
Fisker has also weighed the options of further departing from GM by substituting the 360-pound-heavy GM EcoTec genset with something more suited to the task.
It has looked at a purpose-built, 124-pound, 1.2-liter Lotus three-cylinder generator, or, we asked the company, will a BMW engine find its way into the Karma?
“Not at this point in time. The Karma has been optimized with its current range extender and has a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery that can give the Karma a 50 miles (80 km) all electric range,” Ormisher said. “The electric only “stealth” mode is expected to account for most of the daily range, with the range extender only used as a back up on longer trips.”
But the new deal with BMW does mark a departure from sourcing American-made engines for its American-made Nina vehicles, which are anticipated to be available for sale in 2013.
Unlike Ford and GM, which are making efforts to increase domestic content for their electrified vehicles, Fisker – while insisting on its U.S. status – seems to have no qualms about sourcing imported components it considers superior.
“This is an important agreement for Fisker. We are focused on building environmentally responsible cars that deliver Pure Driving Passion to our discerning customers,” said Fisker’s Chief Operating Officer, Bernhard Koehler. “Who better to be a part of this exciting ‘recipe’ than BMW – the makers of the Ultimate Driving Machine?”
All we can say is GM and Ford better be careful. Our bet is a BMW-engineered genset will deliver considerable prestige for the underdog story that is Fisker. And our guess is it would also like to earn the moniker of “ultimate” too – and make that ASAP thank you very much.
This small outside-the-box company has very rapidly moved into U.S. territory, building on the ashes of GM’s former mismanagement.
It has developed extremely attractive – if not perfect – cars from its inception. As Tesla has purposed to do with its Roadster, Fisker’s $100k or so boutique vehicle, the Karma, was just the semi-exotic teaser on the company’s road toward creating more affordable vehicles in bulk.
And just in case anyone doubts Fisker’s American commitment, the company says Project Nina will create or support 2,000 factory jobs in The First State, plus 3,000 vendor and supplier jobs. By 2014, it expects to be producing 75,000-100,000 vehicles per year.
More than half of these would be exported, and if so, the company says that would give it the largest export percentage of any domestic automaker.
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