Two years before he resigned from the company he co-founded, Henrik Fisker was candid in an interview with Car and Driver. “Any car designer always dreams about designing their own car — if they say they don’t, they’re lying ... For me it was never about starting my own company just to make another car.” Instead, the goal, in 2005, was “something special.”

"What if?" Fisker asked. That dream faltered because the Fisker Karma isn’t special enough. The plug-in hybrid “supercar,” priced at more than $100,000, looked the part but didn’t deliver in terms of high times on the road and basic reliability. The company’s plans were to build the Atlantic, a more affordable model, at a former General Motors factory in Delaware. Instead, development of that car stalled after Fisker failed to meet the terms of its $529 million federal loan. And production of the Karma halted after its battery supplier, A123, went bankrupt.

Fisker Karma

The result was a company hemorrhaging money but not selling any cars. It didn’t help that hundreds of completed cars were destroyed in a Hurricane Sandy-related fire. A selloff loomed, but only Chinese companies, Geely (owner of Volvo), Wanxiang (new owner of A123) were interested. Strategy over the sale is apparently what prompted Fisker to resign from his own company — he cited “several major disagreements” with the company’s executive management.

The Fisker sale could still go through, and the car could emerge in modified form. We already know that it will have a limited run as the Corvette-engined Destino (a project helmed by ex-GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz). Here’s a few scenarios:

  • Fisker/BMW: Shoehorn in the proven high-performance plug-in hybrid hardware from the forthcoming BMW i8. Lots of limited-edition supercars use existing BMW or Mercedes hardware, no shame in that.
  • Fisker/Volvo: If Geely buys the company, that would open the door to Volvo tech under the hood. The Swedish automaker was working on hybrid drivetrains before Ford came into the picture, and one of those designs could be dusted off. But somehow the words “Volvo” and “supercar” don’t go together all that well, unless you remember the late, lamented P1800.
  • Fisker/A123: One other option is reinventing the Fisker along the lines of Tesla’s all-electric Model S. If Wanxiang buys the company, it could supply a larger A123 battery pack to go with a straightforward hi-po electric motor. The drawback is the Karma’s scale-busting weight (now over 5,000 pounds), but the car could be slimmed down without its gas motor.
  • Fisker/Tesla: This would require Henrik Fisker to settle his differences with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, which isn't likely. The two fell out over an early design for the Model S. But a very unlikely scenario would see the Fisker becoming some kind of alternative body style for the Model S. (No, forget this one, Elon would never go for it.)
Somehow, we haven’t seen the last of Fisker, either the car or the man. My guess is that Henrik Fisker will go back to designing cars, as he has done very ably at Ford, BMW and Aston Martin. But Fisker will have to give up the grand vision he had back in 2005, when he clearly thought he was reinventing the automobile. Asked by Car and Driver in 2011 what he’d do if offered $1 billion for the company, he said, “We’re not going to sell for a billion — that’s way too cheap. There’s huge potential in this brand.”

Related on MNN: Leonardo DiCaprio to own first Fisker Karma

Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

Fisker's next move
Henrik Fisker is out as executive chairman of the company he co-founded. Meanwhile, the plug-in hybrid car is on the block. What now?