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Fisker Says Karma Supercar Goes to Dealers in Third Quarter of 2010

The Los Angeles Auto Show (whose press days just concluded, as the public part starts) didn't produce a whole lot that was truly new and exciting. We were supposed to get all worked up about Infiniti showing off its new M series on Facebook.

Fisker Automotive, the celebrated maker of the $87,900 Karma plug-in hybrid, didn't have its new lower-cost Nina car to show off, but it did furnish journalists with a list of accomplishments that included:

· Establishing global headquarters in Irvine, California and opening an engineering facility in Pontiac, Michigan. · Setting up 42 independent U.S. dealers, and three distributors (who will set up their own dealer networks) in Europe. · Applying for 50 patents. · Winning a $528.7 million, somewhat controversial, loan from the Department of Energy. · Securing 1,500 customer deposits.

Fisker did offer one important new bit of information: It will begin delivering cars in the third quarter of 2010. According to spokesman Russell Datz, that means cars that will be used to give test drives at those 42 dealerships. Actual customer cars will come "later," he said. How much later? "As soon as possible."

In October, when Vice President Joe Biden toured the Wilmington, Delaware factory that will make the Nina, he said in public remarks I found on that the crowd should "imagine when this factory--is making 100,000 plug-in hybrid sedans, coupes and crossovers every single year."

Does that mean there will be a total of three Ninas (including the Pinta and the Santa Maria)? "The business plan for the Karma was always to have two-, four-door and an SUV category, and the Nina is also going to be available in multiple variants," Datz said.

Biden (who was "very excited," says Datz) saw a full-sized design prototype of the Nina, not an operating car. Fisker is hoping to begin retooling work at the Wilmington factory in the spring, and the car(s) in 2012. Fisker says it will create 5,000 jobs, which should offset some of the complaints about a "foreign" (although California-based) company getting more than $500 million of taxpayer money.

Actually debuting in Los Angeles were these cool prototypes:

· Volkswagen L1. The company claims 170 mpg from a tiny two-seater car with a carbon fiber skin, weighing just over 800 pounds. It's headed for production, and the show car is not far from the finished product. · Honda P-NUT. The Personal-Neo Urban Transport seats three with the driver in the middle and the passengers behind. BMW, GM and Toyota have all showed off green-themed cars designed for "mega-city" commuter use. On the P-NUT, the rear seats fold up as in the production Fit. The P-NUT's windshield is one piece with its roof, and it doubles as a heads-up screen for the navigation system. · Lexus LF-Ch. This one's headed for production, too. The car in LA was a hybrid, but that is likely to appear later, after a debut as a compact performance car in Europe. Hatchbacks are much bigger in the rest of the world, so we may not see the LF-Ch in the U.S.

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