Exclusive: China's Wanxiang to relaunch Fisker Karma car with 2012 design - sources

Thu Sep 18, 2014 4:51pm EDT
 
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By Norihiko Shirouzu and Ben Klayman

BEIJING/DETROIT (Reuters) - Chinese auto parts producer Wanxiang Group, which bought stylish electric car pioneer Fisker Automotive from bankruptcy, is accelerating the relaunch of Fisker's Karma hybrid luxury car by using a design from the company's last year of production, people close to the companies said.

Wanxiang aims to reintroduce by next year Fisker's electric cars, which enjoyed a cult following for their streamlined design among early fans including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber before the company's demise in 2013.

The "new" Karma that California-based Fisker, acquired by Wanxiang earlier this year, is rushing to finish is based largely on the 2012 model, said the people, who asked not to be identified. Wanxiang's top U.S. executive said in February the Karma would be reintroduced within a year.

"It will have to be nearly identical to the 2012 model, or it would need to go through (safety) testing and certification again," a person close to Fisker's suppliers said. "I don’t think they want to put a lot of engineering into it either, as well as probably use up some of the old parts that are in inventory."

Co-founded by Danish designer Henrik Fisker in 2007, Fisker had a mission to build a beautiful, "green" car that could rival exclusive European brands like Maserati and Aston Martin.

The company was an early rival of Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O: Quote) but their fortunes went in opposite directions. A series of missteps and recalls led to disappointing sales for Fisker and eventually the company's bankruptcy filing. Wanxiang acquired Fisker's assets for $149.2 million in a U.S. bankruptcy auction in February.

OLD SUPPLIERS ANGRY   Continued...

 
A Fisker Karma luxury plug-in hybrid car is seen at the sixth annual Alternative Transportation Expo and Conference (AltCar) in Santa Monica, California in this September 29, 2011 file photo.   REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files