Fisker's Chinese owner plans 2nd model after Karma output resumes

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WASHINGTON -- The Chinese owner of Fisker Automotive hopes to launch a second model that would join the $100,000 Karma luxury plug-in hybrid in three years, according to the company’s chairman.

Chairman Lu Guanqiu, the billionaire chairman and founder of Chinese auto parts giant Wanxiang Group Co., told reporters here on Friday that a new Fisker nameplate is in the works.

He said he hopes to launch the new model in 2017, without providing details about the vehicle or where it would be assembled.

Wanxiang, which purchased Fisker in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy auction in February, is working to revive production of the Karma at a plant in Finland.

It hopes the Karma will one day be assembled in the United States.

Karma production has been idled since 2012 following a series of quality problems, fires, recalls and a severe cash shortage that preceded the company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition.

Pin Ni, president of Wanxiang’s U.S. unit , said Friday the Karma has about 250 “bugs” that must be fixed before output resumes.

He also said ensuring the company has a reliable supply of high-quality components for the Karma is essential to resuming Karma production.

“At Fisker, the biggest issue is to solve the problems,” Ni said. “There are about 250 bugs in this we need to de-bug. I often say that Wanxiang can afford to make cars, but Wanxiang cannot afford to make bad cars.”

Ni and Lu briefed reporters Friday following a week-long U.S. tour in which Lu met with officials and politicians in several states. Meetings took place in Delaware, where Fisker owns a shuttered plant formerly-owned by General Motors; Michigan, where Wanxiang-owned lithium ion battery supplier A123 Systems has operations; and in Washington, where Lu met with government officials, legislators and Vice President Joe Biden.

Shortly after Wanxiang completed its acquisition of Fisker, Ni expressed hopes to revive Karma production within a year. Ni and Lu gave no such timeline on Friday, emphasizing instead that the company must ensure quality before production can be resumed.

Through an interpreter, Lu said pinpointing a relaunch date for the Karma “is really hard to say because it’s really dependent on the supply chain and the supply chain’s commitment.

Ni, speaking in English, said the company wants to establish relationships with suppliers that extend beyond the life of the Karma.

“We need to carefully evaluate not only the manufacturing side, but who will be our partners for the future Fisker in terms of supply chain,” Ni said. “I don’t think we have a fixed plan yet. In fact, we are very flexible.”

He noted that production is currently housed in Finland but the company ultimately wants to build Fiskers in the United States.

“Our goal is to fix all the issues and get the car back on the road, but this car has to be a good cart. It cannot be a car with problems … We want to make this car in the United States,” Ni said. “This too is determined. But in terms of a detailed plan, we are still evaluating.”

You can reach Ryan Beene at rbeene@crain.com. -- Follow Ryan on Twitter


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