VL Automotive acquiring Fisker Karmas to create Destino sports cars

Article by Anita Panait, on January 28, 2014

VL Automotive is planning to transform Fisker Karma plug-in hybrids into traditional sports cars, retrofitting them by removing their hybrid powertrains and installing Chevrolet Corvette V-8 engines and altered bodies. To achieve this, VL first needs to acquire Karmas they could work on. This could prove as a real challenge considering that Fisker Automotive stopped producing them in 2012.

One of the VL’s founders, Gilbert Villareal, said that they have already acquired 25 Karmas. VL has been purchasing Fisker off dealerships and paying them commissions for the sales. One dealer who visited VL's booth at the 2014 the Detroit auto show agreed to sell nine cars, Villarreal says. VL is expecting to retail each retrofitted Karma -- renamed the Destino -- for around $195,000, depending on options.

Destino will be powered by General Motor’s supercharged LS9 V-8 engine, which provides up to 638 hp, paired to a six-speed automatic transmission.

VL is awaiting regulatory approval to sell the Destino in the United States. Villarreal remarked that VL has potential buyers abroad overseas who have said they want to purchase a Destino.

He said there are estimated 300 new Karmas still unsold in dealer lots, in addition to 1,800 cars sold. "We're finding a huge interest among owners in having their cars converted to our V-8 engine,” Villareal said, adding they could convert around 1,000 of those vehicles. VL is also backed by Bob Lutz, GM’s retired product chief.

The Fisker Karma is the first, and still the only, vehicle that lets the driver manually choose all-electric or hybrid driving modes at will. The default Stealth mode optimises effectiveness, providing the automobile its best battery power range before initiating the petrol engine-driven generator to keep the battery charged. In this mode, the Fisker Karma can go from zero to 60 in 7.9 seconds and reach a 95 mph (153 km/h) top speed.

What reveals more about the Fisker Karma's acceleration ability and handling, though, is the huge 981 lb.-ft. (1,330 Nm) peak torque instantaneously available from zero rpm. This is compared to most conventional luxury sedans that develop less than half that amount at a much higher rpm.

Because the Karma is always powered by its electric engines and a single-ratio transmission/differential combo, the driver can always experience and get pleasure from seamlessly strong, direct acceleration.

One pull of the Karma's steering wheel’s left paddle activates Sport mode. This causes the petrol engine to drive the generator and provide added current to supplement the battery. This creates enough juice for the total 403 horsepower, letting the Karma accelerate from zero to 60 in only 5.9 seconds and reach a 125 mph (201 km/h) top speed.

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