Fisker pushes back China launch to 1st-quarter 2013

Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:56pm EST
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By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fisker Automotive will start selling its $100,000-plus Karma plug-in hybrid in China during the first quarter of next year to take advantage of the country's rapidly growing market for luxury cars, company executives said on Wednesday.

Fisker said earlier it would launch in China by the end of this year. But the company encountered a slight delay in obtaining final certification to sell cars in China and decided to focus on the Middle East first, spokesman Roger Ormisher said.

Tackling growing markets like China and the Middle East, where Fisker launched sales earlier this year, is a big part of the fledgling automaker's growth strategy after it suffered a series of financial setbacks and quality problems with the Karma launch.

"We still aren't in all the markets where we want to be," Henrik Fisker, the company's founder and executive chairman, said in an interview during the Los Angeles Auto Show. "Part of our adjustment is also to keep on entering new markets."

Luxury car sales in China, the world's largest auto market, are forecast to grow to 2.7 million vehicles by 2020, overtaking the United States as the world's leading luxury car market. Fisker's distributor in China is China Grand Automotive Services Co Ltd XJGINW.UL.

"We have just launched in the Middle East, which we see a lot of interest and potential sales there, and then we are going to go into China next year," Henrik Fisker said.

Anaheim, California-based Fisker began selling the Karma in December 2011.

Currently about two-thirds of Karma sales are in the United States, with the rest in Europe, said Chief Executive Tony Posawatz, who joined Fisker this year after working on General Motors Co's (GM.N: Quote) Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid for six years.   Continued...

Henrik Fisker, (L), Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Fisker Automotive and CEO Tony Posawatz pose with a Fisker Karma at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California November 28, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni