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http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/biz/content/business/2010/02/19/PBPassion_0220.html



Palm Beach Motorcars President Robert Simmons and brand manager for Fisker Ryan Moore are ready for the new plug-in hybrid to arrive in Palm Beach.

Palm Beach Daily News said:
Palm Beach is one of just a few places in the world where you will see the very latest exotic or bespoke automobile parked in plain view in front of a restaurant or store.

This is not just a manifestation of conspicuous wealth. Owners of these beautiful automobiles are following a passion for top-notch design, the very best in mechanical craftsmanship and the very latest in technological innovation.

Nobody is more aware of this than Robert Simpson, president of Palm Beach Motor Cars — one of the top Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover dealerships in America — and Ryan Moore, the brand manager for the company's new Fisker dealership.

At Palm Beach Motor Cars, there is already a growing list of Palm Beach auto enthusiasts who won't have to wait long for one of the most stylish and technologically advanced automobiles of this century — the groundbreaking plug-in electric hybrid Fisker Karma.

Simpson is clearly excited about taking the lead in delivering the Karma to this area. With all its panache and performance, the Karma will be on his showroom floor this year.

Automotive designer Henrik Fisker, father of the new Fisker Karma luxury sports sedan, already has a huge following among the world's automobile enthusiasts. He was the designer behind the much-vaunted BMW Z8, as well as Aston Martin's Vantage and DB9 models.

If you need further proof of Fisker's ability to evoke the most passionate responses in auto design, consider that Fisker's designs have dominated the automobiles that Q Branch has provided for James Bond in blockbuster movies over the past decade. Fisker cars are for those who prefer to be shaken, not stirred.

New approach

The new Karma is cast from the same sleek mold as its famous predecessors, but takes a decidedly different approach to automotive technology. Fisker's new company, Fisker Automotive, has a green mission to offer uncompromisingly beautiful cars that make environmental sense.

The Karma is propelled by two electric motors with a combined 403 horsepower, augmented by a 2-liter, 260 horsepower, direct-injected four-cylinder gasoline engine. It can be driven in all-electric "stealth mode," running entirely from an Advanced Lithium Power battery pack, for an approximate range of 50 miles, and is capable of reaching 95 mph. Or — in "sport mode" — the gasoline engine is engaged to assist the electric drive motors, increasing power output for a top speed of 125 mph. The Karma can deliver off-the-line performance of 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds.

Even when the gasoline engine is employed, the electric motors drive the wheels. Due to their intrinsic capability for high revolutions per minute, there is no need for a transmission and gears. Fuel emissions are recycled so the Karma maintains virtually zero harmful emission, no matter what mode it is driven in. The entire system is called Q-DRIVE® and has been manufactured by Fisker Karma's corporate partner Quantum Technologies for the U.S. military for years.

"We bought into this early on," Simpson said. "Everybody that purchases a car has a certain amount of ego involved. But at this level, people want to be noticed and, at the same time, be seen as green thinking and conscious of sustainability. I think this plays well in certain parts of the country, certainly in Palm Beach."

And Simpson says Karma's sustainability footprint will be realized at its very best in Palm Beach — a town with only one remaining gas station. "If you live on the island and mainly commute to the golf course, club and dinner, you would have infinite miles per gallon because you will never kick into using the gasoline engine," he said.

Simpson and Moore say Karma's Q-DRIVE is a more practical approach to eco-sustainable vehicles than all-electric cars, such as the Tesla Roadster, until a better battery and charging infrastructure evolves. With its fuel engine engaged, the Karma's range is 300 miles.

As of yet, very few charging stations are available on the road for electric cars. Even with a significant push from the Obama administration, Simpson said consumers still have a while to wait for all-electric convenience.

"They may install charging stations, but everybody has to have the same universal plug," he said. "There are all kinds of things like that, which have to be worked out."

Considerations of practicality are important for any groundbreaking technology, but Simpson and Moore are familiar enough with the Palm Beach exotic and luxury automobile market to know the part passion plays in ownership decisions.

"Henrik Fisker has said that people who drive a 7 Series and Mercedes S Class won't step down to a Prius to make a statement about eco-sustainability because the style isn't there," Moore said. "There's really nothing on the road that looks even remotely like the Karma. Especially when you see one in person."

Simpson added that he can't wait until they have one in their new showroom. "It's an important thing to stand next to the car and observe it. When you can stand next to a car and understand its proportions and balance, it evokes an emotion in you that says, 'Wow, I'm going to sit in it. It wraps around me. I really like the feel of this car.' "

A natural ride

That "feel" will extend to the other senses of sight, sound and smell. The Karma's eco-sustainability goal extends beyond the drive system inside and out. Some Karma models will feature a full-length solar roof to help charge the car and provide cooling for the interior cabin.

In the cabin, sustainability goals are extended even further. Wood trim is sourced from nonliving naturally fallen trees, rescued trees and sunken trees found on American lake bottoms. The car's EcoGlass has a unique luster because it is made from naturally recyclable sand layered with resin for strength. The EcoChic model features embellishments such as authentic fossilized leaves framed in EcoGlass and 100 percent animal-free Bamboo Viscose soft-hand upholstery.

The area's first Karmas will be displayed in a new showroom on the Palm Beach Motor Cars property in downtown West Palm Beach. The new building is designed to be eco-friendly and constructed of similar sustainable materials.

"Fisker made it very clear that they want a functioning green showroom, only as big as it needs to be," Simpson said. "This is pretty unique in the car business."

First in Florida

Fisker Automotive's dealer network team previously worked with Palm Beach Motor Cars on the Jaguar and Land Rover brands. They approached Simmons early about opening a dealership. But the relationship is more that of a development partner than a franchise holder.

"We asked Fisker how they would handle areas of responsibility and market boundaries for the four Florida dealers," Simpson said. "They said, 'We want you to decide how to do that.'

"We spearheaded a review of the dealer/retailer agreement," he said. "And because we were passionate about it already, we also offered to put forth a Florida retailer Web site (www.FiskerFL.com). It's been fun for us to take the lead and know what's going on first. And it's fun for us to imagine the day when we will have the vehicle in our hands."

That day is coming soon. "The plan is for the Karma sedan to arrive this year," Moore said. The second model, the Karma S convertible, is expected to arrive in 2011.

The Karma sedan will start at about $87,900, and the Karma S will be available as a hardtop coupe and convertible starting at about $125,000.

For information, visit PalmBeachMotorCars.com.
 
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