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VL Destino revealed - what became of the Fisker Karma

Fri, 10 Jan 2014

This is the new face of the Fisker Karma, the luxury plug-in hybrid whose parent company went to the wall last year. But it’s not only the Karma’s gap-toothed grin that’s disappeared: its plug-in hybrid powertrain has bitten the dust, too, replaced by a GM-sourced V8 – a supercharged lump boasting 638hp and 640lb ft.

Called the VL Destino, the wilder Karma will be shown at this month’s North American International Auto Show, aka the Detroit Motor Show.

Fittingly, the man behind it is ex-GM vice chairman and climate-change sceptic Bob Lutz. Here’s what he had to say when MSN Cars caught up with him…

MSN: How impressed were you by the original Fisker Karma?

Bob Lutz: "We were, like most people, very impressed with Karma as a design statement and a brilliant chassis design. And, again like the majority, less impressed with the semi-electric drive train and the attendant reliability issues."


How many cars do you plan to convert?

"We will build as many as customers want. We realize that volumes will be in the hundreds, globally, and not thousands. But Destino isn't for everyone: it will be one of the world's most exclusive ultra-performance four-door sports sedans, fitted with a drivetrain that can be serviced by any Chevrolet dealer. The cars will also be available with bespoke, ultra-premium, individualized leather interiors by 'Katzkin.'"

What were the challenges involved in fitting the V8 drivetrain?

"Fitting the GM LS-9 640 bhp engine with attendant automatic six-speed transaxle and cooling system was relatively easy from a packaging standpoint. The difficult part was getting the Fisker body and instrument software to "talk to" the GM parts. And, of course, achieving full regulatory compliance is not a trivial matter, either. The Fisker bankruptcy caused delays in software compliance."

Does fitting a V8 to a hybrid appeal to your sense of humour?

"I suppose there is a certain irony to it, but, as atonement, I am also involved with VIA Motors, a company that converts full-size Chevrolet pick-ups, vans and SUVs into plug-in hybrid status, with a 40-mile battery range."

You were once quoted as saying ‘global warming is a crock of s**t’. Do you still hold that opinion?

"More so every day. None of the past dire AGW predictions have materialised, global temperatures have been stable for the last 16 years, arctic ice mass is expanding, polar bears are doing great. The "pseudo-religious movement" is now left with nothing but even more dire predictions of future catastrophe, which, trust me, won't come about."


Did you facelift the Karma to differentiate your product or because you thought it could look better?

"Both. Not many people liked the Karma's 'Cheshire Cat grin' front end, and we wanted a separate, serious high-performance identity for Destino"

How do we buy a VL Destino and when and where will it be on sale?

"Too early to make statements on this. We are 100% focused on completing the car and achieving full regulatory compliance. Distribution plans and on-sale dates will be announced at a later time, but we’re estimating a £200,000 base price in the US."

On Bing: see more photos of the Fisker Karma
Read MSN Cars' preview guide to the 2014 Detroit Motor Show