Bob Lutz has had grandiose performance luxury car dreams before – Cunningham C7, anyone? – but the VL Automotive Destino that was just unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show was certainly a surprise, even to long-time Lutz-watchers. As a reminder, the Destino is a Fisker Karma with a 638-horsepower supercharged LS9 V8 transplanted from a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Plug? Gone. High-tech lithium-ion battery? Sold back to Fisker.

"I just heard so many people say, I love the Fisker Karma but I'm not going to buy it because I don't want that electric drivetrain."

For now, the Destino project remains small. Bob Lutz tells AutoblogGreen that VL Automotive has so far purchased eight Karmas, and two have been turned into finished engineering prototypes. Fisker says a total of 20 have been ordered. Still, Lutz believes this is a car with an audience. "I just heard so many people say, I love the Fisker Karma but I'm not going to buy it because I don't want that electric drivetrain with the four-cylinder engine," he said. "So, when you think about it, for a car in that category, here's this ultra-luxurious, super-low, super-sporty, beautifully designed four-door sedan. Probably ten percent of the possible customers want that in an electric form with a four-cylinder."

To satisfy the other 90 percent Lutz envisions, VL Automotive buys the Karmas and then removes the battery pack (carefully setting it aside) at VL Automotive's headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan – not far from Lutz's old job at Chrysler. "We were able to run the driveshaft right down the battery tunnel and we had to make a modification where the battery tunnel ends and the rear firewall starts, because the Corvette transaxle intruded somewhat, so we had to make a little aluminum doghouse that's welded to the vertical rear panel," Lutz told us. "They had a gas tank, but there's all this room left over." In the future, the conversions will be even easier, since VL will buy glider chassis direct from Valmet, in Finland, Lutz said.

From Fisker's point of view, buying the Karmas whole is actually a good thing, Lutz believes. "[Fisker] has had incredible hard luck," he said, "And with the battery supplier not producing batteries, they're actually glad if we buy new ones and ship the batteries and the electrical back to them for a credit – that permits them to build more cars."

That's a nice, symbiotic relationship, but Roger Ormisher, Fisker's senior director of global corporate communications & PR, confirmed to AutoblogGreen that this project is not a joint partnership or strategic alliance. He added:

Fisker believes that it [Destino] speaks to the appeal of the Karma and its stunning, award-winning design that coachbuilders are wanting to take our cars and modify and customize them. We join many famous brands in automotive history that have been the subject of customization and modification.

When the Destino becomes available, the price is expected to be around $180,000.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 112 Comments
      Electron
      • 1 Year Ago
      Lutz business plan doesn't make obvious sense. Substituting the expensive PHEV drivetrain for a V8 adds $80K to the price tag somehow, yet it's the car 90% of Fisker's potential clientèle wants? Hardly at that price point I imagine.
        Electron
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Electron
        ...also it's interesting that he feels that for "ultra-luxurious, super-low, super-sporty, beautifully designed four-door sedan. Probably ten percent of the possible customers want that in an electric form with a four-cylinder." If that's true I wonder if GM isn't barking up the wrong tree with the Caddy ELR.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Electron
          The ELR isn't playing in the 100K+ sedan market where the Karma sits. There's a much larger market for a personal luxury coupe in the 60-70K range.
          Electron
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Electron
          Yes, but what percentage of people looking for luxury coupes have "must have plug" on their shopping list I wonder. According to Lutz' logic the ELR might have a much larger clientèle with high powered ICE engines and I can't quite deny the logic of his argument. GM needs to expand its range of Voltec models but a coupe wasn't the logical next step. A medium sized SUV/CUV would have made more sense I think.
          m_2012
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Electron
          Plus the ELR isnt luxurious, super-low, super sporty, or beautifully designed.
      Tom
      • 1 Day Ago
      He's right.
      jamiescale
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think Bob's right in that a lot of folks would prefer the Karma w/out the high-tech (and someone unproven) electronic wizardry...but in effectively doubling the price, he's narrowed that audience down to a very minute subset. Drop in a "lesser" Vette engine, keep it below $110k and you have something truly interesting to bring to market. Keep in mind, they sell the battery back to Fisker, so they're cost of goods sold goes way down...they could do it for <$110k and be a legit niche-market contender (and maybe more?).
        Val
        • 1 Day Ago
        @jamiescale
        the difference in engine price is definitely not $80k, and he is not after dead even operations, he wants profit, and the only way to make it selling limited numbers is to charge a high price. At 110k this car is way more powerful than any sedan in its class, and he is obviously going after the AM rapide and the panamera, which have version close to $180k.
      Letstakeawalk
      • 1 Day Ago
      Which is why Fisker is happy to sell gliders. They make money doing so.
      • 1 Day Ago
      So if all Fisker will be selling is gliders, is there really any point for them to have all their engineers and other staff here in CA when the business for their electric car seems to dying? Can they even afford payroll due to all the trouble they've encountered? Lutz did well, but it doesn't seem like this will save Fisker from their destiny, but only prolong the misery a bit longer.
      Endless Sporadic
      • 1 Year Ago
      By putting this article on autoblog green, autoblog is trying to start a war between the horsepower fans and the tree hungers. Stop toying with our emotions for ratings autoblog
        edward.stallings
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Endless Sporadic
        LOL! Don't use that gas powered chainsaw to cut down my tree! Autoblog is a great site - always new articles!
      PeterScott
      • 1 Year Ago
      Bob Lutz really should have retired gracefully. His credibility suffers when he is so transparent proclaiming whatever product he has as the proper solution. Now the Volt was wrong, and it is really EREV trucks that should have been done first (which coincidentally he is selling). Now the Fisker only needs a Corvette engine to fix it, (which coincidentally he is selling). Sure...
        askroon
        • 1 Day Ago
        @PeterScott
        Maybe he's developing and selling that stuff because he believes in it..
      Xedicon
      • 1 Year Ago
      Not that I could afford either version of the Karma, but if I could, I wouldn't have ever bought the hybrid and I'd totally be willing to buy the Destino because 4 door ZR1! Also the minor styling updates make the car look way better IMO.
      diffrunt
      • 1 Day Ago
      YES !
      P-derby
      • 1 Day Ago
      How ironic... I like the Volt drivetrain but hate the Volt styling
      Avinash Machado
      • 1 Day Ago
      Priced too high.
      • 1 Day Ago
      If Fisker had just used a balance shafted four, you'd have trouble noticing which engine was being used.
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