Brad Galer, a pharmaceutical executive from West Chester, Pa., is faced with a dilemma.
He is weighing whether to buy a soon-to-be-released $96,000 hybrid sedan from startup carmaker Fisker Automotive or to sink that money into a bottling line for his winery.
A high-class headache, to be sure.
But Fisker's recent move to add $8,000 to the base price of the Karma, a sports sedan and Fisker's first car, is helping Galer settle on a move: he will buy the bottling line next year and put off the Fisker purchase until 2012.
"I think [the price] would definitely sway my decision," said Galer, who has placed a deposit on a new Karma with Wilmington's Union Park Automotive Group, Delaware's only Fisker dealer. "It would definitely sway my wife's decision."
Fisker raised some eyebrows recently by hiking the base price of the Karma from about $87,900 to $95,900, a 9 percent increase.
Fully loaded models will go for as much as $109,850, including a $950 destination fee. (The highest price is for the EcoChic version of the Karma, which includes recycled suede and paint for the fancy environmentalist.) Federal tax incentives should reduce the purchase price by $7,500.
The Karma is expected to reach early customers in March. More than 3,000 people have put down deposits to reserve a car, which is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and can run on electricity alone for 50 miles after a full charge.
Contractor Valmet Automotive is building the first Karmas in Finland. Valmet is scheduled to turn out 15,000 Karmas a year once it reaches full production early next year. Fisker has said that production of the Karma will move to Delaware by 2016.
In late 2012, Fisker plans to begin production of its second line of plug-in hybrids -- the Project Nina -- in Delaware. Using state incentives, the company spent $20 million over the summer to buy General Motors' old Boxwood Road assembly facility near Newport. A Nina sedan is expected to be priced around $47,000.
Fisker spokesman Russell Datz played down concerns about the Karma's new price tag.
"A 9 percent increase is really very small, and we don't expect that to be a factor with our more than 3,000 depositors," he said by e-mail.
Plus, a solar roof is now included as a standard feature, Datz said. That would have cost $5,000 as an option, he said.
Jim Ursomarso, vice president of Union Park in Wilmington, does not expect the high price to chase away customers.
Ursomarso said the dealership has begun aggressively marketing the car recently, sending out brochures to well-heeled customers.
A handful of people have already put down deposits with Union Park -- typically $5,000 -- to reserve a Karma.
"If you look at comparable cars ... it's actually a very attractive price point," Ursomarso said.
Not everyone is so confident.
Pike Research electric-car analyst John Gartner said the new price more closely aligns Fisker's Karma with established models like Mercedes S-class sedans and SL-class roadsters, which start north of $90,000.
"Most people who are going to spend $80,000-plus have more wiggle room when they go to make a purchase," Gartner said. "But still, with an extra $10,000 ... now they're moving up into a higher class."
He also said consumers in other countries -- particularly in China, where Fisker is making a big push -- may be turned off by the higher price.
"It will affect the buying decisions much more in a place like China. There's just a smaller number of people who have that financial flexibility," Gartner said. "For some, it might be pushing it out of their reach."