September 15, 2009 / 10:26 PM / 10 years ago

Fisker to launch $39,000 electric car in 2012

SAUSALITO, California (Reuters) - Fisker Automotive Inc, a builder of luxury plug-in hybrids, will launch a sedan car in 2012 that will sell for $39,000, a major investor in the automaker said on Tuesday.

The privately held startup would likely refurbish a factory in the United States to build the vehicle and is aiming to produce 100,000 of the lower-cost plug-in hybrids, Ray Lane, Managing Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, told Reuters in an interview.

U.S. and many global automakers are betting that battery technology will make electric cars the environmentally friendly transportation of the future, and the switch to electric engines has drawn a wave of new companies into the auto industry, including Fisker and Tesla in California.

Both have started out with luxury models but are expanding into more affordable — but not mainstream — models.

“At $39,000 (per car) you can up get there pretty fast,” Lane said, referring to the production target.

Menlo Park, California-based Kleiner Perkins, an investor in Fisker, is one of the most prolific and successful venture capital firms in the United States. It is also a big investor in the green technology sector.

Lane said the company will make money on the lower cost cars, which would be equipped with batteries that cost around $12,000 to $15,000.

“We are not going to announce and introduce to the market to lose money,” he said.

Lane also said the company, which is planning to show the new vehicle soon, is currently raising another round of financing.

Fisker is preparing now for the production launch of its first vehicle, a four-door luxury sedan called the Karma that has a starting price of $87,900. The vehicle will be built in Finland by Valmet Automotive.

The Karma will have a 50-mile range on its battery and a total range of 300 when its gasoline engine kicks in, for an average fuel economy of 100 miles per gallon for those who commute less than 50 miles a day, according to Fisker’s website.

Lane declined to say what the new lower cost car will be called, but said it would be a four-seater and could be produced in a retooled car factory. “Fisker will probably manufacture on the East Coast” of the Unites States, he said.

Fisker would not likely launch a cheaper car as it wants to keep a premium brand, along the lines of Jaguar, Lane said.

The automaker is currently working with lithium-ion battery makers U.S.-based Ener1 Inc’s HEV.O EnerDel and Canadian company Advanced Lithium Power on its Karma.

Reporting by Poornima Gupta and Peter Henderson; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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