Bob Lutz has had grandiose performance luxury car dreams before – Cunningham C7, anyone? – but the VL Automotive Destino that was just unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show was certainly a surprise, even to long-time Lutz-watchers. As a reminder, the Destino is a Fisker Karma with a 638-horsepower supercharged LS9 V8 transplanted from a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Plug? Gone. High-tech lithium-ion battery? Sold back to Fisker.
For now, the Destino project remains small. Bob Lutz tells AutoblogGreen that VL Automotive has so far purchased eight Karmas, and two have been turned into finished engineering prototypes. Fisker says a total of 20 have been ordered. Still, Lutz believes this is a car with an audience. "I just heard so many people say, I love the Fisker Karma but I'm not going to buy it because I don't want that electric drivetrain with the four-cylinder engine," he said. "So, when you think about it, for a car in that category, here's this ultra-luxurious, super-low, super-sporty, beautifully designed four-door sedan. Probably ten percent of the possible customers want that in an electric form with a four-cylinder."
"I just heard so many people say, I love the Fisker Karma but I'm not going to buy it because I don't want that electric drivetrain."
To satisfy the other 90 percent Lutz envisions, VL Automotive buys the Karmas and then removes the battery pack (carefully setting it aside) at VL Automotive's headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan – not far from Lutz's old job at Chrysler. "We were able to run the driveshaft right down the battery tunnel and we had to make a modification where the battery tunnel ends and the rear firewall starts, because the Corvette transaxle intruded somewhat, so we had to make a little aluminum doghouse that's welded to the vertical rear panel," Lutz told us. "They had a gas tank, but there's all this room left over." In the future, the conversions will be even easier, since VL will buy glider chassis direct from Valmet, in Finland, Lutz said.
From Fisker's point of view, buying the Karmas whole is actually a good thing, Lutz believes. "[Fisker] has had incredible hard luck," he said, "And with the battery supplier not producing batteries, they're actually glad if we buy new ones and ship the batteries and the electrical back to them for a credit – that permits them to build more cars."
That's a nice, symbiotic relationship, but Roger Ormisher, Fisker's senior director of global corporate communications & PR, confirmed to AutoblogGreen that this project is not a joint partnership or strategic alliance. He added:
When the Destino becomes available, the price is expected to be around $180,000.
Fisker believes that it [Destino] speaks to the appeal of the Karma and its stunning, award-winning design that coachbuilders are wanting to take our cars and modify and customize them. We join many famous brands in automotive history that have been the subject of customization and modification.