Inside Fisker Automotive
By Bill Moore
Excerpted from EV World Insider Edition 12.28 appearing the week of July 8, 2012
When you think about it, "Inside Fisker Automotive" is a pretty pretentious title. How can a superficial, hour or so visit to the headquarters of the California luxury electric hybrid maker really put you "inside" the company that unexpectedly and unwillingly finds itself a well-gnawed bone of contention in a dirty political campaign to unseat the current President of the United States? Yes, we -- my friend and colleague Sammy Smith -- got to see a few offices and several cars, including the Atlantic, the lower-priced counterpart to the Karma, the Surf shooting break concept, and curiously, a mystery vehicle cloaked under a canvas shroud that our tour guide, Russell Datz seemed anxious to make sure was covered up before letting us into a ballroom-like vehicle display area in the bowls of the Fisker office building/design center off La Palma Road in Anaheim, just up the street from several other, competing luxury car dealerships.
The Fisker folks generously gave us some glimpses of their operation: the design center where fabrics are chosen for the interior and mock-ups of door panels lie in a pile on the floor, as well as the warren of cubicles filled with engineers. Datz and then Roger Ormisher, Fisker's official spokesman, who joined us halfway through the tour, openly answered what questions they could: when will you launch the Atlantic (originally codenamed Nina)? Answer: when they think its time. Have you learned the cause of the fire in Houston yet? Answer: we know it wasn't the battery pack; it was undamaged. "We even thought about putting it in another car, but of course, it belongs to the insurance company," Datz noted.
As most such tours go, it included the standard company mission statement pitch about why they opted going with a plug-in design instead of all-electric like Tesla, a message that Henrik Fisker would later repeat as we talked with him -- entirely unexpectedly -- in a second floor office. The audio of that interview is available to our premium subscribers using the embedded MP3 players in the right-hand column.
Between Henrik Fisker's measured responses to our questions, you sensed a person very much in control of his emotions, almost to the point of opacity. When we later took several group photos outside the building -- none were allowed inside, a standard auto industry policy with only few exceptions -- I was struck by the nearly identical expressions on his face, from one frame to the next. It was the face of a skilled poker player, or seemed that way. He was gracious and forthright, though it wasn't hard to imagine that behind that cultured European veneer was a mind occupied by more business decisions, design ideas and management issues than I would care to take on. I mean, starting a car company from scratch with a dream and a Rolodex, has to be a sure-fire recipe for a serious ulcer, at the very least, or more likely, an alcoholic haze. But his placid demeanor never betrayed to us any signs of anxiety or aggravation, though unless he's Vulcan, he must have his moments as those truly 'inside' the company could, I have to assume, attest.
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