Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive are both building green luxury cars, but each has gone their own way. The Tesla Model S is fully electric, while the Fisker Karma has a gasoline engine-generator to charge its batteries. That seems like the makings of a rivalry, something Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed in a recent interview with Automobile Magazine.
“I don’t think very highly of Henrik Fisker,” Musk said of Fisker’s eponymous founder. He called Fisker’s $105,000 Karma a “mediocre product at a high price,” saying that the sedan lacked interior and trunk space yet was physically larger than his company’s Model S.
Musk also criticized Fisker for “outsourcing” what he considers the most important parts of car design: engineering and manufacturing. He said Fisker only cares about the way a car looks, but nothing more substantive.
The Karma is built by Valmet Automotive in Finland, the same company that assembles the Porsche Boxster and Cayman. The company talked about opening its own plant to produce a new car, the Atlantic, but those plans are now in limbo.
The Karma’s powertrain was developed by Quantum Technologies, and it uses a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine from General Motors. The Atlantic will use a gasoline engine from BMW.
Tesla did outsource a significant amount of the engineering work on its first car, the Roadster, which essentially an electric Lotus Elise. However, almost every part of the Model S was developed in-house.
Musk does think his competitor designed a nice car. “It looks good. Particularly from the side it looks good. I don’t love the front. It looks too much like a caricature of a Mexican Bandito—the grille,” he said.
Design is where the rivalry began. Back when Fisker was re-skinning BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes, Musk hired him to style the Model S. At some point, Fisker had the idea for the Karma, and Musk sued him for working on his car while he was under contract to Tesla. Fisker won the suit.
Fisker’s response to Musk’s attack was casual. He noted that he had won the suit, thanked Musk for complementing the Karma’s styling, and wished him well.
Despite differences in size and technology, Tesla and Fisker produce the only truly green luxury vehicles on the market, so comparisons are inevitable.
The Karma will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, and hit a top speed of 125 mph. Tesla claims a 0 to 60 time of 5.6 seconds, 4.4 seconds with the Signature Performance Package.
A loaded Model S Signature Performance with the largest battery pack costs $105,400, before a $7,500 Federal tax credit. The Karma starts at $105,000, although most models will roll out of showrooms with $115,000 stickers. Tesla does offer a base Model S with a $57,400 sticker, but the Fisker Atlantic, which will be closer to the Model S in size, is expected to cost roughly the same.