For a company that produces electric vehicles, Karma has been awfully silent lately —and for good reason. The luxury automaker has been undergoing a top-to bottom overhaul under the direction of its CEO, Lance Zhou.
“We’ve been focused on building our company and perfecting our craft,” says Zhou, a 25-year industry veteran who took the wheel at Karma in December 2017. He was tasked with treating the then ten-year-old company like a startup and rebuilding it from the ground up. The struggle for Zhou is that this is Karma’s third incarnation in just over a decade—and the second time it has been completely rebuilt.
What is now Karma Automotive began life in 2007 as Fisker Automotive, under the direction of Danish car designer Henrik Fisker, best known for his work on the BMW Z8 and Aston Martin V8 Vantage and DB9.
Backed by a federal loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, Fisker built a sleek, plug-in hybrid sports sedan called the Karma with a starting price of more than $100,000. It attracted notable investors (including the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins) and celebrity clients such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber. But the car was plagued with mechanical and technical problems and quickly became a severe cash suck for the company.
Fisker built an estimated 2,450 Karmas in 2011 and 2012, losing at least $35,000 on each one. And despite raising more than $1 billion in private and publi