By on September 8, 2016

Karma Revero, Image: Karma Automotive

Just a few short moments ago, I was converted.

No, not by electric drivetrains or other alternative sources of transportation fairy dust.

I was converted by the four men in charge of the Fisker Karma’s resurrection — now called the Karma Revero — into believing the company’s viability as a future going concern.

Karma Revero, Image: Karma Automotive

After being purchased by Wanxiang Group of China, which has many businesses in the automotive parts supply space, the Karma and the company behind it took a lot of flack.

For one, a Chinese entity was buying up a company that, for all intents and purposes, existed because of the American taxpayer. Its automotive venture relied on loan guarantees made by the United States Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. Fisker Automotive drew $192 million from the program and paid back a scant $21 million before going belly up.

It’s that rocky past that had me (and many others) thinking the Karma was a sure sign of failure — beautiful failure, but failure nonetheless — that should have stayed a footnote in American automotive history. However, Fisker and one of its suppliers, A123 Systems, which helped force the luxury electric vehicle manufacturer (and itself) into bankruptcy, represented an opportunity to Wanxiang Group: a unified front into the luxury EV market.

Wanxiang purchased A123 in 2013 and Fisker just over a year later.

Fast forward to today and not much has been said about the former Fisker, now Karma Automotive, in the news over the last two years — but that doesn’t mean the company has been sitting idle.

Instead, Karma Automotive — with a massive Chinese bankroll — has been quickly hiring new employees after the previous bankruptcy left the company with just 22 people on the payroll (or not-so-payroll, as those 22 people continued to work without pay during the worst of times). Now the total employee headcount at Karma Automotive is just south of 700, and the company expects to add another 200 people or more before the end of the year.

Not all of those employees are working on the Revero, a reprise of Henrik Fisker’s grand touring dreams, though many of them are. The Revero has received new batteries, again from A123 Systems, and a whole new wiring harness to replace the one that had been patch-engineered time and time again. A new infotainment system, built upon QNX, eliminates the staggering lag and performance issues of the last system. The Revero team has made NVH improvements, increased the size of the battery ever so slightly to 21.4 kWh, and even added fast-charging capability to a car that — remember — was initially engineered eight years ago.

And even this massive hiring spree and engineering triumph didn’t sell me on Karma’s future viability.

But four men did.

Karma Revero, Image: Karma Automotive

One of those people is Alexander Klatt, Karma Automotive vice president of global design and architecture. During a question and answer period with journalists, the look on Klatt’s face resembled that seen on a eight-year-old child bringing home a pillowcase filled with Halloween candy. The German was ecstatic to finally see his project through.

Jim Taylor, a Canadian with vast experience working on many General Motors brands, explained Karma’s name — “Karma is an awareness that what you’re doing is intentional,” he said — while also being ultra realistic about Revero delivery dates. Asked what could hold up the Karma reprise, Taylor simply stated, “You don’t know what you don’t know until you come out the other side of testing.”

Carl Jenkins, a Brit with multiple stints on Ford and FCA projects, explained his track record of turning around projects destined for failure. He laid out all the issues that affected the former Karma, and explained what they did to solve them, including the ground-up electrical rebuild desperately needed to improve reliability. Massive effort went into rolling out new infotainment for relaunch, because the old system “was so slow and unresponsive we had a lot of cracked screens” from Karma owners stabbing them in frustration.

Responsibility for that new infotainment system fell primarily on Toyota alum Jason Schulz, but don’t for a moment think the Karma’s infotainment system will look anything like Lexus Enform — it’s gorgeous.

Karma CIU Energy Flow, Image: Karma Automotive

It’s not just me that these men have convinced. Of the 1,000 former and current Fisker Karma owners in North America, 80 of them have put down deposits on the new and improved iteration. Let’s be clear: 80 people have put down deposits on a car they already own, but just want to have a better version of. Selling price? $130,000 — to start.

While the gents in charge wouldn’t give us a solid delivery date, the car is expected to arrive at dealers early enough that it can be called a 2017 Karma Revero. The company, still based in California, will build the Revero in Moreno Valley, California, some 60 miles away from its new headquarters in the former Kawasaki building.

As for the Delaware facility purchased by Fisker and owned by Karma, “We have plans for it,” Klatt said without divulging any additional info. Though if you think Karma needs 900-plus employees just to built the Revero, maybe you should Surf the Sunset on the Atlantic and open your mind to the possibilities.

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62 Comments on “The Karma Revero Is Much More Than a Rehash of a Former Failure...”


  • avatar
    NMGOM

    What is the target competition for the Karma Revero?
    The BMW i8?
    The Tesal Model S?
    Both of those cars go for about $130K (base) as well…but they have both existed for some time now.
    The Karma Revero is not even in serious production, is it?

    ========================

    • 0 avatar

      The guys we spoke with didn’t state a target for benchmarking beyond what was benchmarked before for ride and handling.

      As far as being a serious contender, no, it isn’t, but the guys know that. This will be a limited run that that’ll allow them to get to their next project, much like Tesla used the Roadster to get to the Model S. Expect a run of about 1,000 Reveros.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Are they still using the previous generation of the GM 2.0T dino burner, or have they updated to the current one?

    • 0 avatar

      They are still using the same engine as before. Carl has an “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” mentality, and the EcoTec motor is just fine for now.

      However, future vehicles won’t be using GM powerplants. Karma is currently in discussions with BMW regarding powertrain options. I asked Carl if Karma could use one of the 3- or 4-cyl TwinPower units, and he said it was possible but difficult due to the height of those engines.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    I can never get over how awkward this car looks. Its the Michael Caine character car in the Pixar movie “Cars” come to life.

    While the Tesla is generically attractive this car is anything but. Its not ugly but it just doesnt work when other cars are better in every other respect.

  • avatar
    EVfanatic (Geeta Fisker)

    To the writer Mark Stevenson:
    I was a Fisker investor, and I can tell you your article is a complete misrepresentation of facts. Infact you have been misled by the 4 posters you interviewed:
    Alexander Klatt, the German was the architect before of the navigation system. So if he claims (I do not believe it) that he got it correct this time, was he sleeping at Fisker Automotive. Or perhaps his excuse is he never got a chance…
    Jenkins: This engineer has clearly no clue, since he does not talk about the faulty battery A123 that drowned my investment in both companies.
    Jason: So you spent 3 years building an infotainment system and are suggesting how innovative you are? Well done, but this is not going to sell your car.
    Jim Taylor: Funding Super Bowl ads and going to events with Morgan Freeman (Tesla investor and supporter): Where did you get your PR degree.

    Hoax article. Chinese Hoax Wanxiang had an opportunity to come into A123 and Fisker prior to their bankruptcy, but these bottom feeders waited till last moments. Anyhow for these 4 posters who claim they have created a masterpiece, shame on you for the deceipt.

    [Edit by TTAC Staff: This comment was posted by Geeta Fisker, wife of Henrik Fisker, without identifying herself.]

    • 0 avatar

      The four people who took questions addressed many of Fisker Automotive’s past failings. One major root cause was timing. Fisker needed to get vehicles out on a timetable because of some of the financial constraints and obligations at the time. With Wanxiang now the only shareholder, Karma is only answerable to Wanxiang, and it sounds like the Chinese parent is giving the American subsidiary a long leash and lots of money to play with. Timing is not an issue. They’ll release it when it’s ready this time, instead of rushing the Karma out the door as was done previously.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    QNX is not some magic bullet that makes infotainment systems “responsive.” QNX is a very bare-bones operating system, which doesn’t have any user interface itself (other than a command-line shell.)

    You have to write your own user interface and applications to run on top of QNX, and this is where most companies fall down. Bloated, laggy apps will be bloated and laggy whether they’re running on QNX, Linux, Windows CE, VxWorks, or anything.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It is possible, if you know what you’re doing and really plan it out, to write a fully preemptive UI atop QNX. Photon did this: the whole thing wasn’t fast, but it didn’t suffer from a jammed-up input thread the way a traditional OS would.

      I could be slow, inasmuch as things would take time to launch, but you could launch and interact with other things without waiting. That’s kind of the point of an RTOS: it isn’t fast, but it also doesn’t go deaf/mute.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        the RTOS might not go “deaf/mute,” but if the userland process driving the app/UI hitches or hangs up, the user doesn’t care *where* the logjam is. The first generation of Chrysler “MyGig”/UConnect navigation radios is proof you can write s**t software which runs on QNX.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      Indeed QNX is not magic bullet, and heck, you could wrote a *practically* preemptive UI with anything that supports more than one thread if you know what you’re doing and have enough processing power and don’t depend on cruddy libraries to do any heavy lifting.

      In my opinion, the trouble comes when management pushes back with “You need to make the buttons have animations” or “I like to manipulate the audio tracks from the navigation screen even though the navigation library has it’s roots in some ancient Windows CE code that was ported by someone who thought it would be really clever to write shim code to make QNX look like Windows CE rather than do any rewriting”

    • 0 avatar

      I never said it was a magic bullet, but it does allow the team some extra time to develop the front end of the system without having to worry some of the back-end infrastructure.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I built a real time machine control UI in Photon on QNX around 13 years ago on far inferior hardware, starting with zero knowledge of QNX / POSIX code, and in three months had a reasonably attractive and flawlessly reliable system running. QNX makes this stuff easy because the underlying system is *so* solid and *so* fast and *so* predictable that you don’t spend all your time fighting mirages; you just look up the documentation and build your stuff and It Works. Doing the same task in WinCE or similar would certainly have been possible, but it would have been far more difficult and a lot easier to screw it up.

      You really have to work hard to screw up QNX code. That’s what makes the difference, not some ineffable magic in the way it works – just the fact that it’s lightweight, predictable, and dead-nuts real time reduces risk and time investment enormously. If you asked me to start from scratch and do an infotainment system in Android I’d be nervous; in QNX I’d have no problem taking it on, because I know I can count on the tools.

  • avatar
    mcs

    This car is going nowhere. Has anyone seen the specs? Give me a break. Tesla and the Germans will eat this crap box alive.

    Someone on Inside EVs posted this comparison:

    Karma Revero:
    0-60 5.4sec
    Range 50miles AER + 150miles gas = 300 miles
    $130,000

    Tesla Model S P100D
    O-60 2.5sec
    Range 315miles AER
    $134,500

    Here’s a link to actual specs on the car:

    http://www.karmaautomotive.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Revero_MY17_Brochure.pdf

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Mark,
    Here is an amusing link regarding some of the laws that afflict our US counterparts. Maybe you could do an article on some of the dumbass laws that all countries must have.

    Quite entertaining stuff. It more or less covers all the US States with “road rules”.

    America ….. land of the sometimes inane!

    http://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-ideas/road-trips/take-your-car-apart-and-hide-it-if-you-see-a-horse/news-story/b643de45db14f3757d7ce12fd657b818

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I’ve spent plenty of time driving all over the US and have never been afflicted with a single one of those. Yeah, people spend hours digging through law books that haven’t been cracked open since 1938 and then interpret “You’re at fault if you get into an accident while avoiding wildlife” as “it’s illegal to brake for ducklings LOLOL” and make their clickbait infographic. That says a lot more about journalism than it does about laws.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    This car is proof that the world would be a better place if we ignored people who took art classes.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      More proof that the world would be a better place if we all ignored those with no appreciation for the arts.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        So you think it is good to make a green car that is grossly inefficient in performance, use of resources, and packaging? Thanks for making my point by being yourself.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          No. I think the market should decide, not some dude on the internet..

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          It’s not a green car, it’s a luxury car. It’s only purpose is to impress people.

          The fact that it’s a hybrid is incidental. The Prius came out almost 20 years ago, there’s nothing unusual about hybrids anymore. Hybrid drive trains aren’t used just for MPG either.

          • 0 avatar

            This.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            The tax paying hosts of the US paid for the creation of this car because of the underlying green car falsehood. You can look it up. Next you’ll say that corn ethanol isn’t a green fuel just because it’s bad for the planet.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            “This”

            Check out the tags on this article about the Revero:

            https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/08/instant-karma-fisker-returns-body-not-name/

            Green appears twice.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Todd still trying to wrap his mind around the concept that sustainability is desirable, just like luxury. Kind of fun to watch, like a toddler’s first steps. Except that the toddler learns to walk.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Sustainability is about less for the lower classes and more for the oligarchs. You’re a disposable tool of your superiors.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      But surgical classes for repairing hare-lips would help here. That’s really the only problem this car has. Aside from being a sports car.

      Todd really means “ignored people who took classes, period”.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Ideally good design is a combination. Look at some late 19th century machines, like a foot operated sewing machine. The graceful, curving gear spokes and grid pattern of the rocking treadle are almost works of art, but both combine into a functional industrial machine.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I’m pleasantly surprised. This morning we have a lively discussion on the art of programming real-time operating system user interfaces and the merits/downsides of art in automotive design.

    Well done, gentlemen!

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Mark,
    There was a group of investors led by Bob Lutz who were fitting Karmas with Corvette engines. Did the Karma people mention that effort and their relationship with it?

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Was not the Karma panned for being incredibly cramped and space inefficient despite its large footprint, due to a large and intrusive battery?

    If they have not fixed this, is there any point in releasing the car again?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Yes it was.

      Which is likely why Bob Lutz liked the Karma so much. It reminded him of the terrible space inefficiencies of the Detroit Dinosaurs of the 1970s.

      • 0 avatar
        Joe Btfsplk

        In the current issue of Road & Track, Bob Lutz states that in his opinion, the whole Elon Musk – Tesla – Solar City mash-up is a house of cards that faces imminent collapse. I’ve gotta go with Bob on this one…

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Give Maximum Bob credit. He wanted a V8 to do away with the battery and open up the interior. M-B is old enough to remember what rear seats are for: nookie. With that center console going all the way back, all they could do is hold hands. He could see the battery thing was a loser.

        • 0 avatar
          indi500fan

          I understand your premise here, but I’d think folks with 6-figure priced cars would have better options for their love making? Unless it’s loaned out for prom night.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, the interior is tight and the battery runs along the center tunnel of the car. It’s a little difficult to get in and out of it compared to say, I dunno, a Camry. But it’s not Lotus Elise bad.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Mark: I’m surprised you were drawn in by the True Believers for this vehicle. Total production of the Karma 1.0 was 2450 units over two years. My rough maths tell me they’d have to sell about 20,000 of these a year to be profitable – not gonna happen.

    Improved infotainment and new wiring does not sustain a failed product. This thing remains the largest subcompact car (IMO) with a pretty weak drivetrain compared to other offerings.

    They have no service network.

    You mention 80 True Believers who want another Karma – OK. I could scrape up that many willing to buy a Studebaker rehash. But how about a few thousand *new* customers who want a Karma? I guess they forgot to mention them, because they don’t exist.

    Unfortunately for Karma, they have a lot going against them, not the least of which is Tesla’s success. Tesla is going broke trying to buy viability in the form of a dealer/service network, charging network, multiple vehicle lineup, and awesome performance. It’s costing a fortune, but they’re doing a lot of the right things, and they’re fueled by the passion of Mr Musk and a rabid customer base.

    There is no way Wanxiang Group of China will generate passion in or for this company and its product(s), long term. Faceless conglomerates rarely can. Tesla survives in its 15th year thanks to the enthusiasm of a few key people. I predict that Wanxiang Group will spin off Karma after a few years of losses; they’re not in this to build a customer base or new technology; they’re in this to make money.

    PS: I’m another one who thinks it looks like a character from the movie Cars, and I’ve seen the Karma in person.

    • 0 avatar

      “Mark: I’m surprised you were drawn in by the True Believers for this vehicle. Total production of the Karma 1.0 was 2450 units over two years. My rough maths tell me they’d have to sell about 20,000 of these a year to be profitable – not gonna happen.”

      You’re assuming they need to be profitable with the Revero, which Karma does not. Wanxiang is willing to take losses on Karma for a while as they develop future models. Consider the Revero an off-the-shelf vehicle they can sell now to fund Karma’s current activities.

      “They have no service network.”

      They have 11 dealers (which offer service) and another three service-only centers as of today.

      “You mention 80 True Believers who want another Karma – OK. I could scrape up that many willing to buy a Studebaker rehash. But how about a few thousand *new* customers who want a Karma? I guess they forgot to mention them, because they don’t exist.”

      Karma hasn’t taken pre-orders from new customers because they haven’t reached out to new customers yet. The point of getting the previous owners on board was to learn about the failures present in the previous car and attempt to fix as many as possible. After that, they offered the renewed Karma to those same customers, and 80 plunked down money on it. There were more hand-raisers than that, but 80 was the number that gave deposits.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    What ever happened to the Atlantis concept that Karma showed long ago? I kind of liked that one at the time.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, so did I. Most of the current Karma owners are pushing for Karma Automotive to built the Sunset concept, while people within the company strongly suggested everything is on the table — including an SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Your question makes me wonder how much of Fisker’s designs he still owns rights to. Check out the white VLF Destino on VLF’s website.

      http://www.vlfautomotive.com/about/

      The front end is toned down.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I’m curious, who made off with all the dough that Karma burned? Is the FBI doing due diligence here? “Follow the money”

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      It’s not like there was a pot of money “stolen”. They paid employees and suppliers with the money. Auto making is capital intensive, and that $192 million taxpayer cash was a drop in the bucket. I think the standard for a drawing board to dealer new model is about $5 billion. That’s why most makers modify older designs, re-use drive trains and dig into parts bins for their “new” models. Even then, the cost will run into $1-$2 billion. It’s a high-cost, low-margin industry, the reason why the Agnelli family is trusting Sergio to cash them out.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Mark, thanks for including the bit about the Wilmington factory. About a month ago there was some activity there over a weekend but otherwise it’s been quiet as the grave.

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