Karma Automotive President's Bold Vision For The Future

Irvine-based EV manufacturer Karma Automotive has always struggled to find an identity in an ever-changing automotive landscape. This is partly because of Karma’s intricate and complex history. When Fisker Automotive and its battery supplier A123 Systems went bankrupt in the early half of the 2010s, Chinese automotive investment firm Wanxiang Group, swooped in and purchased the two for a hefty sum of $405.8 million over two years.

By 2015, Wanxiang Group branded the new venture as Karma Automotive. Naturally, this led to confusion as Fisker’s outgoing model was called the Karma. To increase the confusion, the Karma Revero, which debuted in 2016 and hit the market a year later, looked virtually the same as the Fisker. While Karma Automotive’s engineers made numerous upgrades to the vehicle behind the scenes, it still could be confused with the Fisker.

It wasn’t until 2019 that the Revero saw a noticeable redesign, eliminating the mustache grille and smoothing down the body. Inside the Revero GT, Karma ditched the GM Ecotec engine in favor of a three-cylinder BMW engine. Moreover, out went the 21kWh battery, and in came a more substantial 28 kilowatt-hour one. The Revero GT is largely identical to the GS-6, which launched shortly after.

Still, its creations were not able to draw a significant following. Karma Automotive has even said that it was bouncing around 100 to 300 vehicles produced annually, totaling 1,000 units delivered worldwide. Pair a low-volume vehicle with an ambiguous brand image, and Karma Automotive has been far from a household name. However, in recent times, Karma has been silent, secretly plotting its pathway to becoming America’s next aspirational car brand.

New Leadership

On April 2023, Karma Automotive named its new president, Marques McCammon. McCammon is an automotive engineer who has worked in management-level roles at Saleen, Aptera Motors, and Ricardo, Inc. Translating to Karma Automotive, McCammon’s vision as the firm’s new president is to bring the company to a position of far more relevance and influence.

McCammon says Karma Automotive’s new plan is to manufacture captivating new entries to shape its image for the future. “It is the combination of timeless luxury and design with forward-looking technology such that we create products that are both inspirational and aspirational,” McCammon told InsideEVs. “We want to be that embodiment.”

But developing a new brand image, especially one still plagued with preconceived notions, is no easy feat. However, instead of avoiding the past, McCammon says that embracing it as part of the new design evolution is necessary.

Embracing The Past

“We don’t want to escape that {the Revero nameplate} or run away from that because it is a part of who we are. But we are going to define a design vocabulary that is distinctly ours, where people won’t say, ‘Is this Fisker or is this someone else?'” McCammon said. “We are going to take the wraps off of that later this year.”

This all translates to “more than two” new vehicle launches for the brand. The previously rumored GX-1 crossover has been scrapped (at least for now), and the brand is pivoting towards ultra-luxury performance EVs and series hybrids. That’s right, Karma isn’t ditching the mixed powertrain just yet. “For some of our consumers, the range-extended EV is just desirable. There is no sense of compromise in any shape, form, or fashion,” McCammon told InsideEVs.

Offering an optional range-extended powertrain does leave one major question: how will this work with the battery setup? As for the technical underpinnings, McCammon said, “There are some things we’ve done architecturally with Karma from its beginning that actually give it a lower, more athletic, and sportier stance: we want to hold onto that. We package our batteries differently.” Based on this statement, upcoming Karmas will likely feature T-shaped battery packs, like that in its current offering.

Sticking to a battery pack that resides in the nonexistent transmission tunnel is a move that helps give the car a more driver-centered feel. This allows the drivers to sit in cutouts, which lowers the driving position and delivers a feel more akin to a racing cockpit. The expense is practicality as back seat occupants will be confined to a somewhat cramped space. Most mainstream EVs prefer a skateboard platform strictly due to practicality, but performance EVs like the Rimac Nevera opt for the T-shaped pack.

To better enable a more unique ownership experience, Karma Automotive wants to put the driving experience first. While upcoming Karma entries will feature safety features like adaptive cruise control and lane centering, McCammon and the engineers don’t want that tech to go overboard. “While I am enamored with the technology that enables robotaxis, that’s not something I am personally interested in for our brand,” he said.

A Vision For The Karma Of Tomorrow

For McCammon and Karma, the team wants its upcoming vehicles to redefine American luxury. Still, being a somewhat fresh-faced entry in today’s automotive industry is no easy undertaking. However, Karma Automotive believes it can pave the path to its maximum potential with a clear and concise brand image and an attraction towards performance.

Karma Automotive plans to unveil the first new product in the beginning half of November. From the looks of it, the upcoming model will come with a premium tag and provide a new basis for Karma’s design evolution. “We want you to see a Karma fifteen years from now and say it still looks fresh,” McCammon said. “We are going to introduce the new face of Karma.”

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