DETROIT -- VL Automotive, a Detroit venture backed by former General Motors' vice chairman Bob Lutz, is moving ahead with plans to convert Fisker Karmas from hybrid power to Corvette power.
Lutz told Automotive News on Thursday that the company has bought 25 unsold Karmas and has settled a dispute with an Asian investor that prevented VL from accessing the codes that operate the Karma's infotainment system.
"Without getting those codes, it was close to impossible to get a working car," Lutz said.
The converted Karma, to be called the Destino, has a more conservative grille and a few other minor cosmetic tweaks. VL Engineers are removing the Chevrolet Volt-like gasoline-electric powertrain and replacing it with the engine and transmission used in the Chevrolet Corvette. Two versions will be available, a base 450-hp direct-injected V-8 and an optional 638-hp supercharged V-8.
Lutz said the challenge for engineers is to create a refined driving experience suited to a $200,000 luxury performance sedan. Lutz said VL is on track to start delivering cars by mid-2014.
"It's going to take time. I don't want a rough car that's hard to drive with a bad transmission and high noise levels. At close to $200,000, these things are going to have to be silky and buttery to drive. The sound and feel have to be just right," Lutz said.
VL plans to return to the Detroit auto show in January with the sedan and one other body style, Lutz said.
He also said "he has confidence" that VL has secured a source of body panels and gliders -- cars that are assembled minus the drivetrain -- so that production can continue after the initial batch of 25 cars are sold.
VL is further planning to offer current Karma owners the option to convert their cars to Corvette power for about $100,000, provided the Karma is in pristine condition.
Fisker sold about 1,800 Karmas before production stopped in November of last year when the company ran out of money.
Lutz would not comment about whether he or VL bid on additional Fisker assets, including a loan auctioned this past week by the U.S. Department of Energy. Fisker shut down when it missed sales targets and could not make loan payments to the DOE.
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