Fisker to Relaunch Karma Plug-In Hybrid

Fisker Automotive
Fisker Karma

The retooled electric carmaker, which went bankrupt in 2013 and counted Leonardo DiCaprio among its investors, plans to sell a new version of its Karma sedan by 2016.

Along with Tesla Motors' Roadster and Model S, the $100,000 Fisker Karma helped create the luxury electric-car segment when it entered production in 2011, only to have Fisker declare bankruptcy and cease production in 2013 after manufacturing 1,800 cars.

Retooled as "the New Fisker," the revived car maker plans to sell an updated edition of the Karma by 2016, the Orange County Register reported.

Now based in Costa Mesa, Calif., Fisker Automotive & Technology Group will build the new Karma at a factory in Moreno Valley, Calif. The original Karma, built in Finland, boasted Hollywood devotees including Leonardo DiCaprio, an investor in the company, but was plagued by battery problems and recalls.

In 2013, the Treasury Department seized $21 million after Fisker failed to repay $192 million in funds loaned to it by the Department of Energy. Fisker founder Henrik Fisker stepped down from the company in 2012

The new Karma will enter an electric car marketplace that has become vastly more competitive since Fisker's bankruptcy.

The Tesla Model S has since made plausible the concept of a luxury electric sedan and boasts a long list of Hollywood owners, including Ben Affleck, Jeffrey Katzenberg and James Cameron, while Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW are aggressively targeting the segment with a host of electric and plug-in hybrid models arriving over the next two years. Tesla CEO Elon Musk pledged the company will finally begin selling its Model X SUV this fall, which has more than 20,000 preorders.

"Tesla won, Fisker lost," says Matt Hardigree, executive editor of the Jalopnik automotive website.