First Fisker production cars roll off lines

Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:31pm EDT

* Fisker backer Leonardo di Caprio gets first model

* Vehicles start at $95,900

By Sarah McBride and Poornima Gupta

SAN FRANCISCO, July 26 (Reuters) - Fisker Automotive has started doling out its long-anticipated extended-range electric cars -- and chairman of the board Ray Lane wasn't the first to get one.

That car went to actor Leonardo di Caprio, who also is a Fisker investor. He wasn't showing off his new car to reporters on Tuesday, but Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers managing partner Ray Lane was.

Lane espoused the Fisker Karma's virtues as the media circled the sedan, tucked away in the back area of Kleiner's Sand Hill Road parking lot. The firm is a major Fisker investor.

Fisker Karmas, plug-in hybrid vehicles that have missed several launch dates, have been highly anticipated by the environmentally friendly and well-heeled car buyers who form their target market.

Another alternative fuel car, the all-electric Roadster, made by Silicon Valley-based Tesla Motors (TSLA.O), went into production in 2008. Lane said the Karmas would appeal to a different set of carbuyers who wanted backup from a gas engine.

Last year, Fisker closed on a $529 million loan from a Department of Energy program to spur the development of alternative vehicles. Tesla and Nissan are among the other companies to win similar loans.

Lane said he would be putting aside his regular commuting vehicle, a Porsche, in favor of the Karma. (Reporting by Sarah McBride and Poornima Gupta; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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