2010 Fisker Karma: Vegan On Board

January 19, 2009
Last week we brought you a glimpse of the production-bound version of Fisker Automotive’s Karma sedan, along with the Fisker Karma S convertible concept, as they were unveiled at the Detroit auto show. While the exterior look of the production Karma sedan was no surprise, the show appearance marked an entirely new look for both cars inside. And that look inside provided a better idea of how Fisker plans to market its cars: eco-smart, with a veil of very palpable luxury.

Take a good look inside and the new interior has been transformed, with an appearance and feel that’s immediately plush, soft, and ornate yet modern. The look has hints of Jaguar and Aston Martin and, fortunately, lacks the sort of cobbled-together feel that we’ve come to expect from small, aspiring automakers.

In a stroke of marketing genius, the Fisker also calls out to an untapped market: moneyed Hollywood vegans, of which there are plenty. While full leather is usually offered in the highest, most expensive trim level of a vehicle, Fisker has turned the trend upside down. Its certified animal-free EcoChic model will top the range, at $106,000, while the mid-range EcoSport will run 94,000 and the EcoBase will cost $87,900—and noteworthy $80,400 after an anticipated federal tax rebate.

According to Fairuz Schlecht, the manager in charge of colors and materials at Fisker, key priorities in putting together the new interior were accountability and sensuality. But those attributes aren’t flaunted or over-advertised on the vehicle as they have been with decals, logos, and intentionally coarse, earthy-looking materials in some other vehicles.

“When you think of a sustainable product, usually you can tell that it’s green,” said Schlecht. “But when you look at the interior I don’t think that’s the first read here.” She said that the challenge was planning a product that expressed modernity, luxury, and sport first, but with an underlying “culture of sustainability” that matches the Karma’s purpose for being.

For instance, Fisker’s leather is sourced from a so-called “happy cow strategy,” with hides only from 100 percent grain- and grass-fed cattle that were never branded and free to roam. The leather is also minimally treated (saving energy) and thus has growth marks, which Schlecht likened to “the rings of a tree.” And on the animal-free model, the seats are upholstered in a soft Bamboo Viscose textile.

Fisker also has a strategy for the wood used in its vehicles: Use non-living trees. So-called Sunken Wood trim is mostly oak and sourced from the bottom of Lake Michigan. “We don’t patina the wood,” again saving energy and chemicals, says Schlecht. “It already has the look we want.” Then there’s also Rescued Wood, which is eucalyptus wood rescued from fire-ravaged areas in Orange Country, California. The center console on EcoChic models is topped off with a veneer incorporating fossilized leaves—a look that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen in a vehicle.

There’s yet another, somewhat ordinary material that’s used sparingly in the Karma to great effect: glass. In the door trim, it’s used as a jewel-like element, with angled cuts and beveled edges. Rest assured, it is safety glass, and in combination with other materials underneath it yields a very fresh appearance. Glass is also used in the center console area to see the battery below.

The doors are especially well detailed, with a shallow but functional leather (or synthetic) pocket that’s integrated into the interior trim and modeled after Louis Vuitton handbags. The Karma uses cross stitching, such as is commonly used on high-end leather-trimmed steering wheels—on the door trim as well.

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