An expensive electric car favoured by Hollywood movie stars is about to get V8 power – because not enough buyers are queuing up for the environmentally-friendly limousine.
The fire-prone Fisker Karma – driven by celebrities Justin Bieber, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Ashton Kutcher – is about to have its plug-in hybrid technology replaced by a V8 engine in a limited edition model overseen by former General Motors heavyweight Bob Lutz.
The colourful semi-retired auto executive who once described global warming as “a total crock of shit” – and then later redeemed himself with environmentalists by convincing GM to build the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid – is due to unveil the top secret car at the Detroit motor show on Tuesday.
Lutz, who flies decommissioned fighter planes on weekends and is due to turn 81 next month, plans to fit a range of high-powered engines from the Corvette – including a massive race-tuned 7.0-litre V8 – and sell the luxury sports sedan under the “VL Destino” badge.
To distinguish it from the electric car, Lutz’s machine will be fitted with “more macho” front and rear bumpers – and four massive tailpipes.
“Fisker’s not selling many cars … so we’re buying bodies but not any of the electrical stuff,” Lutz told News Limited. “Imagine a Corvette sedan, that’s the type of performance we’re talking about,” he said, adding that removing the battery pack and electric motor slashes the car’s weight by 25 per cent (600kg).
The starting price of the V8 sports sedan is expected to be $180,000. The Fisker Karma electric car, which starts at $100,000, will continue to be sold. But the company is in poor financial health due to weaker than expected sales and a series of quality problems that in some cases led to vehicles catching fire.
To try to turn its fortunes around Fisker recently hired a former GM executive with electric-car expertise to run the company.
When asked if he thought Fisker would survive, Lutz said: “I don’t know. They will for a while. Even if they don’t we can still get bodies.” The Fisker sedan bodies are made in Finland by a third-party supplier.
News of a V8 version of the Fisker Karma comes as figures show that sales of electric cars around the world are well below forecasts. Some car makers estimated electric vehicles would account for 5 to 10 per cent of sales by the end of the decade but the latest projections have been scaled back to less than 1 per cent.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling