Exclusive: China's Wanxiang to rebrand Fisker as Elux - sources

DETROIT (Reuters) - Chinese auto parts maker Wanxiang Group 000559.SZ will push back its planned relaunch of the defunct Fisker Karma hybrid sports car until mid-2016 and rebrand Fisker Automotive as Elux, two sources familiar with the plan said Sunday.

A logo of Wanxiang Group is seen at China International Auto Parts Expo in Beijing, April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

Wanxiang, which acquired the assets of California-based Fisker Automotive a year ago in a U.S. bankruptcy auction, had hoped to revive the Karma this year.

The revised version of the Karma will be renamed Elux Karma and the Fisker name will be dropped, said the sources, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak for Wanxiang.

The sources said the revived gasoline-electric car will not be assembled in Finland as earlier planned. Wanxiang has not finalized a production site, the sources said.

Wanxiang plans to price the car from around $135,000, the sources said, nearly 20 percent higher than the final price of the original Karma, which ceased production in 2012.

Wanxiang did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fisker Automotive was an early rival of Tesla Motors Inc TSLA.O, but despite the backing of the U.S. government and private investors, the company failed just six years after its 2007 launch.

Fisker Automotive was co-founded by Danish designer Henrik Fisker, who previously created such well-received sports cars as the Aston Martin DB9 and the BMW Z8.

Last fall, Henrik Fisker resurfaced as the designer of a special limited edition of the Ford Mustang, dubbed the Rocket, created for California dealer Galpin Ford.

One of the sources said the revived Fisker car likely would be based heavily on Henrik Fisker’s original Karma design.

One question is whether and how much Wanxiang will revise the car’s battery pack, which was developed and supplied by another U.S. company, A123 Systems, that went bankrupt and was eventually acquired by Wanxiang.

One of the sources said Wanxiang is spending “millions” to update the car’s hardware, much of which dates back seven years, to make it more competitive with newer vehicles introduced in the last several years.

Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Tom Brown