Fisker_Karma049When talking about car manufacturing, one normally thinks of Germany, Italy, France, Japan and the USA. Finland, on the other hand, comes seldom to one’s mind. That much more interesting it is to see that a plug-in hybrid is build right here in Finland, the Fisker Karma.

The Karma is, as Fisker puts it, “a beautiful and environmentally friendly car for people who do not want to compromise luxury”. The car uses a small gasoline engine which turns the generator that charges the lithium ion battery pack, which powers the car in normal use. You can configure the car so that it comes with a solar roof which helps to charge the car. The car drives 80 km before it starts to run on gasoline, and it seats four plus sufficient place for luggage. Finally, the design is beautiful, and conveys the image of speed and luxury.

Valmet Automotive is the company building the car in Finland. Valmet signed the deal with Fisker Automotive in November 2008 and production will start an the end of 2009. Their plan is to reach a volume of 15.000 cars per year, while the contract between Valmet and Fisker runs for several years. The reason that Valmet was chosen over their competitors was the quality and speed necessary to reach Fisker’s production goals, and because more than half of Fisker’s sales are expected outside of North America: Valmet represents an ideal international foothold, according to Fisker Automotive CEO, Henrik Fisker.

Valmet, which have been building Porsches since 1997 and thus have ample experience in building premium high-quality cars, enter new territory with the plug-in hybrid Karma. The production process needs to be adapted before the Karma can roll of the manufacturing line, and Valmet to keep investing in new technology to keep its high standard in producing cars. Environmental aspects are key issues for both companies, and they observe them also during the production process. Furthermore, Valmet is developing new technologies for electric vehicle manufacturing, as it is a rapidly growing market in the automotive industry. The company sees that there is a lot of know-how and competences in Finnish electric and automotive companies, and believes that cooperation in the field of development and manufacturing of electric cars could certainly be a promising future industry in Finland.

The first Karmas will be shipped to the USA in the end of 2009. If you’re able to get the Karma in Finland isn’t known yet, though Fisker announced that a network of 40 retailers in Europe will be selling the Karma, starting in 2010. If you’re interested in getting a Karma, you now have the time to start saving the 79.000€ plus VAT before the car is available. However, because you will save on gasoline in the long-term its an investment that can repay itself quickly.

Now the question is if the Karma will be successful. Its direct competitors include the Tesla Model S, but that one won’t be available before 2012. Toyota Prius, still the most successful Hybrid car available, is aiming at another public. The Aptera e2 on the other hand might just look too spacey to appeal to the mainstream. While other car manufacturers are ramping up their R&D in order to develop an electric car, until we see an Audi A8 plug-in hybrid or something similar, Fisker together with Valmet look like being on the right track.

Our Guest Blogger, Hendrik Morkel, is half Dutch/ half German and has lived in the Netherlands, Germany, Honduras and Spain.

Living in Finland since 2002, he has a Bachelor’s degree in International Business Management and a Master’s degree in Corporate Environmental Management.

He liked Finland so much that he decided to stay, and established Korpi Consulting, an environmental management consultancy focused on helping SMEs to optimize their environmental performance.