LOS ANGELES -- The "new" Revero sedan Karma Automotive launched last week isn't very new.
Aside from the shiny new paint schemes, the reprogrammed infotainment system and a faster charger, it's largely the same vehicle as the Fisker Karma from 2012 with the same plug-in hybrid drivetrain and eye-catching exterior design.
What is new is everything but the car: its mission, the company behind it and the automotive landscape at large -- all of which have only emboldened Karma as it seeks to re-establish itself as a brand.
Purchased out of bankruptcy by Chinese auto parts maker Wanxiang Group in 2014, Karma -- nee Fisker Automotive -- is now a privately held company based in Costa Mesa, Calif. This means no potential initial public offering looming, no government loans weighing on its balance sheet and therefore no immediate pressure to sell a certain number of cars and chase a certain amount of profit.
"We've got a private owner with patient capital, very different investment circumstances than before," James Taylor, Karma's chief marketing officer, said in an interview ahead of the Revero's debut Thursday night. "So we literally have the luxury of not being pressured for volume."
The new Revero is tentatively scheduled to go on sale by year-end, though in another nod to its patient owner, that date could change if the car isn't up to Karma's standards. Once it is on sale, Karma is hoping for annual volumes in the "low thousands," Taylor said.
Karma puts the Revero's starting price at about $130,000.
When it is available, the Revero will be greeted by an industry that has evolved considerably since 2012. Plug-in hybrids are no longer a science experiment. Automakers -- particularly luxury brands -- now see them as a critical bridge from traditional gasoline-powered vehicles to the pure EVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles expected to dominate the future. And Tesla Motors, whose Model S debuted around the same time as the first Fisker Karma, has demonstrated that there's a market for plug-in luxury vehicles at $100,000-plus.
"Think of what stage of maturity electric vehicles were in back then and the amount of risk you were taking to jump in and drop six figures on a brand you'd never heard of and an electrical technology that, even for the [Chevy] Volt, was just launching," Taylor said.