Karma Gives Us a Look At Its Future With the 2020 SC1 Vision Concept
Karma came with its truck filled to the brim at the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show. Not only did the company built from the ashes of Fisker Automotive present its sole production model, but it also previewed its path into the future with two exquisite concept cars. One of these concept cars is the SC1 Vision Concept that is an unapologetically flamboyant supercar with butterfly doors and a hood so long you could fit a continent between the windshield and the tip of the nose. This EV’s strongpoints are 5G connectivity and a humanized communication system. It’s said to be a sneak preview at the future of Karma’s design language.
Karma brought to Shanghai a trifecta that the company calls its ’New Dawn.’ I see it as sort of rebirth or, at the very least, an attempt at rebrand and repositioning by a company that was known for years as one that simply assembled the cars designed by someone else that they acquired the rights for. Of course, this is an over-simplified view of how things stood, but I’m sure that’s how many thought of Karma, beside the many people that have never even heard of the company altogether. Now, the Chinese conglomerate that urges the automaker on plans to change this and this in-your-face concept might just do the trick. Why? Well, just look at it!
It’s got a long hood that’ll deceive you into thinking it hides a V-12
Just when we thought nothing is new on the horizon for Karma, the company promptly disagreed by showing off its ’New Dawn.’ According to the company’s CEO, Dr. Lance Zhou, ’New Dawn’ is the name given by the company to a new chapter in its brief history, one that should see it grow through some rather exotic EVs undoubtedly priced to appeal to the ultra-rich.
If you don’t know what Karma is, here’s a quick rundown of how this company came to be and why many people have overlooked it in the past few years. For starters, ’Karma’ was the name of the first four-door sports sedan unveiled by Henrik Fisker’s company, Fisker Automotive, a decade ago. The hype boomed almost on the spot because, unlike the original Tesla Roadster which looked like a fat Lotus Elise, the Karma was pretty, curvaceous, low-slung, and, on top of all that, featured four doors. Leonardo Di Caprio bought one and, for a short while, Fisker’s Karma was the hot new EV that everyone wanted.
But not everything was going according to plan. First, there were the delays: the concept was shown at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show and Fisker promised a production version will roll out in 2009, but it didn’t.
Then 2010 arrived and, still, no sign of the Karma.
Call it bad karma if you wish, but it took another year for prospecting Karma buyers that had reserved a spot in the queue to begin to receive their cars that were assembled by Valmet Automotive in Finland. At the time, the advertised MSRP hovered around $81,000, and Fisker said 3,000 people put in a deposit for a Karma.
The hopes were that about 7,000 cars would be assembled in the first year of production but barely hundreds saw the light of day. Then came the scandals as not one but two Karmas caught fire. In one case, the A123 Systems-supplied battery pack was at fault while in the other the blame can be put on a low-temperature fan that went bust. Regardless of the reasons, the consequences hit Fisker hard.
The fact that over a dozen examples burnt during Hurricane Sandy didn’t help the business that started to fall apart. The proverbial nail in the coffin was pinned when A123 Systems filed for bankruptcy after two battery recalls. By that time, we’d already heard rumors of the company’s perilous state and how Fisker was losing $560,000 with each Karma sold - which by now had a price tag of $100,000.
Finally, in February 2014, Fisker too filed for bankruptcy and all seemed to be over after just 2,000 Karmas had been manufactured.
Luckily, help was on hand. Impressed by the work done by Fisker and seeing some potential in the product, the Chinese Chinese Wanxiang Group purchased both A123 Systems and the assets of Fisker Automotive for $149.2 million in a bankruptcy auction. These included the tooling and design of the Karma, the drivetrain, and a manufacturing plant in Delaware.
One year later, in 2015, the Chinese group presented Karma, the new brand under which the re-named Karma will be sold. The new name was Revero but, again, we had to wait a couple of years until things really got going and Reveros started to come out of the new Moreno Valley, California plant.
The design was virtually unchanged and Karma's aim was to make the car desirable by making it rare.
As a result, only a few were built and, last year, the ultra-exclusive Aliso was unveiled. Just 15 Alisos were slated to be made at a price of $145,000 (at a time when a Model X starts at about $80,000).
Fast forward to this year’s Shanghai Auto Show where Karma showed us a revised Revero with a new front end and two prototypes: a GT penned by Pininfarina and this one, the SC1 Vision Concept. In spite of the use of the word ’Vision’ in the nomenclature, you won’t see it in the Gran Turismo game and that’s sad because the car looks bonkers. Karma says it’s a "signpost to Karma’s future" that reimagines Karma’s current design language while incorporating future customization options and state-of-the-art technologies.
In the front, the SC1 features a blunt nose without a grille, similar to a Tesla, but this open-top supercar does have some side-mounted air inlets and a broad carbon lip.
The profile of the car is elegant, almost devoided of creases apart from the protruding design line across the rocker panels. The doors are enormous and they open automatically in butterfly style like on a Mercedes-McLaren SLR Stirling Moss Edition. In fact, I see the SC1 as a distant relative of the SLR Moss. They both have two seats separated by a central divider, they both lack a full-size windscreen and they both have a bullet-like silhouette with an exceedingly long hood although, in the case of the Mercedes, the hood hides an ICE.
We don’t know anything about the SC1’s specification because the company felt it would be more compelling if they’d focus on other things. "At the core of SC1 Vision Concept’s technological suite is a new infotainment architecture with 5G connectivity as well as a humanized communication system, which integrates touch, voice, eye, and graphical interfaces to enable seamless interaction with the roadster," read the official press release that goes on to underline that Karma "is More than Just a Car Company".
This doesn’t just mean that Karma is a style statement. The idea is that the people behind it want it to become a sort of a hub for innovators to come and chime in through their "’open-platform’ philosophy". "We will use partnerships with like-minded collaborators to accelerate our progress by acquiring and developing key technologies important to connectivity, performance, artificial intelligence, shared mobility platforms, and electrification," said Karma’s CEO at the Shanghai Auto Show.
Frankly, I wish them good karma in droves if that means we'll get to see a production version of the SC1 Vision sometime in the future.
I mean, just picture it: a two-door, two-seater, open-top EV with supercar performance (anywhere between 700 and 900 horsepower and some 800 pound-feet of torque) and the ability to stay in touch with just about any car from naught to 60 mph and allow for some serious wind to blow in your hair thanks to a +170 mph top speed. One is allowed to dream, right?
Read our full review on the 2017 Karma Revero.
Read our full driven review on the 2011 Fisker Karma.
Read our full review on the 2019 Fisker EMotion.