While a few years old, this is still an interesting read.
Motor Trend said:People: Henrik Fisker
Starting from Scratch: A bright future and a huge salary; Henrik Fisker gives it up to pursue an even bigger dream.
July 06, 2005
/ By Matt Stone
/ Photography by Florian Schneider
It would be easy to envy Henrik Fisker. The affable Dane is movie-star handsome and has a great family. He's lived and worked in Germany, London, and some of the hotter spots in Southern California. While at BMW, he designed a car so beautiful--the retromodern, M5-powered Z8 roadster--it starred in the James Bond film, "The World Is Not Enough," with Pierce Brosnan. His most recent hands-on design project is the upcoming Aston Martin AM V8 Vantage, which could easily become 007's next missile-firing ride. While at Ford, he held not one, but two of the most desirable automotive design positions in the world: director of Ford's Global Advanced Design Studio and director of design for Aston Martin. His legend was secured, his future bright, his salary huge. And, on January 17, 2005, he pitched it all away--to design and build cars under his own name.
What is this guy thinking?
"I came to the point in my career where my dreams were fulfilled," he says with a quiet confidence. "Imagine being in a room, and you want to reach up and touch the ceiling and it seems impossible. But finally at some point you can touch the ceiling, and later you end up bumping your head. What I guess I've done now is crawl out the window and climb on top of the roof. It may seem crazy to stand up on the roof, because you can fall down from there and get hurt. But it's a chance I felt right to take. I believe there's still room for the dream a lot of people in the industry have--to design and build your own cars."
What drives this modern-day scribbler on the roof?
"Passion. I remember, as a kid, riding in the back of my dad's old Saab 95 in Denmark. We were on the highway, and suddenly this silver Maserati Bora came upon us, then passed. At the time, to me, this car looked like a spaceship. I remember this tingly feeling I had, these goosebumps. That was it; that was the moment. I was into cars from then on."
Meet America's newest car company: Fisker Coachbuild, LLC, based in Newport Beach, California. Fisker, partner Bernhard Koehler, and a dozen private investors have formed the company to build high-end limited-edition cars for those who also have passion, taste--and an extra $200,000 to $250,000.
"The luxury sports-car market has grown and is continuing to do so. Everyone is claiming their cars are exclusive, but, because of this growth and the way cars are designed and manufactured, it means that even the tiniest companies, like Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Lamborghini, are setting themselves ever-increasing sales goals. Even Porsche is looking to build 50,000 cars now. We believe there's room for an innovator to do exclusive cars, not numbering in the thousands of units, but in the hundreds. We feel we can make this happen and make money."
Besides low volumes and exclusivity, what will separate a Fisker--yes, that is the badge they'll wear--from stiff competition by established marques?
"What we plan to bring to this market is exclusivity and beautiful design. Design--pure beauty--will be number one at Fisker Coachbuild. We want to bring beautiful, desirable cars to the market, limit the production of each model, and do so with the highest quality."
It's the company's goal to design and bring to market two new cars per year. The first will be the front-engine, two-seat roadster hinted at by these illustrations. It'll make its public debut at the Frankfurt auto show in September. Fisker is mum on the second, but concedes, "It won't be a minivan, I promise you that." Production volumes, for at least these first two models and perhaps others, will be strictly limited to 150 units. Some, over time, could range up to 500 units, but not more; crossing that line means much stiffer certification requirements. "We want to be able to react to the market quickly; we have developed a way of designing and producing cars that allows us to go from idea and first sketch to market in about 18 months."
There's a lot of bravado in these statements; far more specialty carmakers have failed than have succeeded. But Fisker is confident the company's business plan will make it work. And, for that, he credits production processes and supplier relationships that he's not yet ready to make completely public, but promises will be spelled out at the time of the Frankfurt reveal. This much he'll admit to: "We aren't pretending to engineer our cars from the ground up. We will base our cars on existing platforms available in the marketplace--we're not ready to say which ones just yet--but they will be well engineered. They will be fast cars, but useable every day. We're not creating extreme performance or racing cars. We're in the luxury/sports-car segment."
He also credits Koehler, with whom he's worked on and off for more than a decade at BMW and Ford.
"Bernhard is a major part of this idea. I didn't want to just start a design company. We want to build cars, and I needed what a lot of designers don't have: discipline, an understanding of business cases and the financial aspects of things, production, quality, engineering. He brings that, and I stress that we are equal partners in this."
Naturally, Fisker himself will design each car personally.
"I enjoy being hands-on. Designing, of course, but also working with the modeler, smelling the clay, getting clay under my fingernails. I almost love the clay stage even more than doing the sketches. That's where the design starts becoming a car. I have a certain way of designing, and I just won't shake that out of my system. I love pure sculpture, I like the right stance, large wheels sitting really well in the body; low-slung, sexy, beautiful, sculptural cars. I'm trying to create timeless designs that will last long. This is about creating a sense of style in this segment. This is not about quick hits."
Given that a passing Bora lit his personal automotive spark, his hero should come as no surprise.
"The guy who influenced me most was Giorgetto Giugiaro. I remember the first time I saw the Maserati Boomerang concept on a magazine cover behind a window at a newsstand. I put my nose against the glass, and just said "wow!" He's the most amazing car designer in the world, and he may be that forever. Who else has been able to design so many cars, personally, from a Golf to a Maserati to whatever. A great inspiration." He prefers not to discuss his own designs. "That," he says pointedly, "is for others to judge."
Fisker's four-wheeled icons?
"For me, one of the most timeless is the Porsche 911. It captures a unique proportion. It's a pure shape with exactly the refined graphics that need to be there. Another, with even more beautiful proportions, is the Jaguar E-Type. When you see that car, something goes on in your stomach. It's so sexy, amazingly sexy. It almost doesn't matter how it drives."
There's more to long-term success as an automotive manufacturer than raising start-up capital and penning pretty shapes. Besides all the development, supplier, production, certification, and sales aspects, there are distribution, dealer, service, warranty issues. Fisker is reticent about these details so far, but since the company was just 100 days old as of this writing, it's likely this stuff is still being worked out.
Will Henrik Fisker follow in the footsteps of carmaking icons like Ford and Ferrari or end up in the Tucker/DeLorean category? Too soon to tell. This small but talented team is confident it can beat the odds and live the dream.
"It's just us; we do everything, and we can do it quickly. We're all hands-on and will have direct relationships with our customers. Now, we're not saying we'll have the biggest bakery chain in the world. But we think we can make really good bread. That bread will be made by hand, and you'll have my signature on it, 100 percent. I just want to create something fantastic."