High-end hybrid Karma back from a brief death

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The six-figure Karma hybrid vehicle is back on the scene under a new company, after a brief absence caused by its previous owner's bankruptcy. (KABC)

People gathered in Laguna Beach to watch the unveiling of a new car, though not exactly new in the strictest sense.

"It came and went, and it came and went so fast that a lot of people never noticed," said Jim Taylor, chief revenue officer of Karma Automotive, referring to the original Fisker Karma of 2012.

Ahead of the trend, the four-door Karma was a plug-in hybrid with lots of style and a steep price tag of over $100,000. But the loss of Fisker's battery supplier due to bankruptcy caused the exotic hybrid car maker's production to grind to a halt after only eight months.

A Chinese company owned by a car enthusiast bought up Fisker's assets after it too went into bankruptcy. The goal all along was to bring the Karma back.

"He's been in the renewable energy space and a lot of other investments, and had dreamed about having a car company someday. And when it became available, he purchased it," said Jim Taylor, referring to the owner of Wanxiang, the company that will now produce brand-new Karmas.

There is a little bit of confusion about the name. Before, it was a company called Fisker with a model called Karma. Now, the brand is called Karma, and the model name is Revero.

Same basic specs as before: 50 miles on battery power, then a gas engine can generate power for longer distances. It's a similar system to the one in the Chevrolet Volt.

And the new Karma Revero is still a premium car, built to order with many different color and trim selections. The base price is now $130,000.

Cars will be sold through a combination of previous Fisker dealers, new dealerships that have signed up for Karma franchises, and at a company-owned store in Orange County.

Technically, Karma is a Chinese-owned company, but is based fully in Southern California.

A new factory in Moreno Valley will produce all the new Reveros and employ about 150 workers. There are also offices in Orange County for other company functions, and total Karma employment is about 700 people.

The car will remain essentially the same mechanically as before, but with new technology inside to keep up with the times. In a world where tech advances move at great speed, a car first launched five years ago needed to be refreshed.

New connectivity apps help it rival any other 2017 car in that regard.

But there is still the matter of trying to sell a car as new, when it's really more than five years old overall.

"This is a huge gamble," said Chris Woodyard, automotive reporter for USA Today. "When this car first came out there were no plug-in cars on the market, or very few. Now there's tons of competition."

On the other hand, the design of the car does still look up-to-date.

"This design is so timeless, is still so spectacular, that we're able to re-launch the car pretty much the same," said Karma Automotive's Jim Taylor.

Deliveries begin (again) early next year.
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automotiveelectric vehiclesauto industryauto newsfisker karmaLaguna BeachOrange County
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