Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

It’s only been a few days since the Carmageddon non-event in Los Angeles ended.  The 405 is back open, and the real daily nightmare of the 405 commute is back.  As usual, the freeway is clogged and the east/west arteries that go under and feed into the 405 (Santa Monica, Wilshire, Olympic, Pico, etc.) are moving at the usual snail’s pace. It still takes me around 35 minutes to drive the 9 miles from my home in West Hollywood to Santa Monica and 20th (in Santa Monica) for a 5 minute appointment.

I’ve lived in LA all my life (51 years so far) and I was here for Y2k (everyone stayed home) as well as the 1984 Olympics.  I can attest that traffic was never better in LA during the Olympics. People took vacations. Businesses changed their hours of operations and put workers on different schedules, including early/late hours, 4-day work weeks and working at home, going into the office only when needed.  People even carpooled – many for the first time ever (this was 1984).

I think the LA Times editorial page summed things up best on July 19, 2011:

Killer bees never did swarm the Southwest, the Y2K bug was squashed, the world didn’t end on May 21 and “Carmageddon” wasn’t. Now that we’ve finished freaking out about the weekend closure of 10 miles of the 405 Freeway, can we do something about the fact that it’s Carmageddon every single day in West Los Angeles?

Last weekend demonstrated that Angelenos really can change their driving behavior if they’re motivated to do so. It’s not the first time they’ve done it. During the 1984 Olympics, when the pre-event hype about traffic nightmares was at least as intense as the media warnings about Carmageddon, commuter traffic across the city was a breeze. It’s not hard to get people out of their cars during extraordinary events; the tough thing is doing it on a daily basis.

I’ve been poking around YouTube for a good time-lapse video that isn’t copyrighted by a news channel, and I found this one. It’s well shot and has some great camera positions.  It’s worth the 4 minutes and 5 seconds:

At the beginning of 2011, I heard rumors of a Fisker store coming to town. A few weeks ago, while I was at Lexus Santa Monica testing the new 2011 Lexus CT 200h, I learned that Sullivan Automotive Group (Lexus Santa Monica’s parent) was building a Fisker store next to its Volkswagen Santa Monica dealership.

The corner of Santa Monica Blvd and 25th St

The location, at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and 25thAve, is the old Lexus Santa Monica site that is now the internet sales department for the VW dealership. The building is relatively small, but you don’t need a large space for the Fisker brand because they only have one model, the voluptuous $95,900 – $110,000 Karma electric extended range sports car.

2012 Fisker Karma

Sullivan Automotive Group is the 33rd largest dealership group in the US (2010). In 2010, it sold a total of 21,239 units (new, used and wholesale) and had total revenue (including parts, service, etc.) of $632,338,233 – with only seven dealerships.

  1. Lexus Santa Monica
  2. Toyota/Scion Santa Monica
  3. Toyota/Scion of Hollywood
  4. Volkswagen of Santa Monica
  5. Pacific Audi
  6. Pacific Porsche
  7. Pacific Volkswagen
  8. Fisker Santa Monica (opening Spring/Summer 2011)

The group uses the catch-all website to promote its stores and, if you live in LA, you’ve seen billboards for LACarGuy and TV commercials featuring patriarch, Owner/President Michael Sullivan.  All of Sullivan’s dealerships have adopted environmentally-friendly practices, both in the showroom and in the service bays. Green is good for business these days.

LACarGuy claims that it’s the number one hybrid dealer in the world. I know the Lexus store is the number one Lexus hybrid seller in the US. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the combination of hybrid sales from the two Toyota dealerships, the Lexus store and a few niche hybrids like the VW Touareg, Porsche Cayenne, and Porsche Panamera Hybrids, put it on top. We do love our hybrids in LA.

It's a small space, but it will work just fine for Fisker

The group also has EV charging stations “live” at some of their dealerships. Odd, as none of the vehicles they sell are plug-in hybrids – yet. The Fisker Karma is a plug-in hybrid EV and the upcoming plug-in Prius will also use the charging stations.

The Fisker logo tombstone looks great.

The Fisker brand is a good fit for Sullivan Automotive and the City of Santa Monica. So far, it’s the only Fisker dealer in greater Los Angeles. The next closest store is in Orange County.

If you’ve never been to Sullivan’s flagship Lexus Santa Monica dealership, it’s worth your time to see this video. I give them props for restoring this beautiful, historic building.

The People’s Republic of Santa Monica is the perfect location for the plug-in EV Fisker Karma. It’s home to ultra-wealthy aging hippies, environmentalists and lefty socialists. Entertainment industry and creative-types populate trendy restaurants and condos. Expensive boutiques on Montana Avenue attract celebrity shoplifters. You’ll find LEED-certified buildings and the most creative, modern architecture there.

Santa Monica is home to Heal the Bay. It’s the unofficial “Home of the Homeless.” The City hosts four terrific Farmers Markets each week in three different locations. Organic and locally-sourced food is pervasive.

Santa Monica banned smoking on public beaches and the outdoor patios of restaurants. Plastic bags are banned from supermarkets. The City’s fleet of non-emergency vehicles is mostly hybrids or alternative fuel vehicles. The City’s Big Blue Buses all run on compressed natural gas (CNG). It’s not uncommon to see an old diesel Mercedes that’s been converted to run on B20 bio-diesel or used vegetable oil. The Prius appears to be the unofficial transportation appliance of Santa Monica — you can’t throw a stone in any direction without hitting one.

Santa Monica is ground zero (in the LA Metro) area for everything environmentally-friendly, progressive and “green.” There are many wealthy early adopters of EVs and other advanced hybrid technology living in or near Santa Monica.  In short, it’s the perfect market for a $100,000 extended-range electric vehicle.

She's got a sexy back too...

The Fisker Karma is a plug-in electric vehicle with a gas engine that drives a generator to charge the batteries for extended-range driving. Fisker claims the Karma can travel 50 miles on the batteries and an additional 200 miles in extended-range mode. The concept is much like the Chevy Volt; but the Karma’s execution is very different and the target audience is wealthier.

The front of the Fisker Karma - I see Salvador Dali's moustache or a Rene Magritte painting.

The Karma packs a GM Ecotec 2.0 liter direct-inject turbo I-4 engine just behind the front wheels. It drives a generator to charge the large-capacity 20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that forms a rigid spine down the center of the car. The Karma is a proper rear-drive sports car (albeit a bit heavy at 4,100 lbs) driven by rear-mounted dual 300 kW electric motors good for a total of 403 hp with a heart-stopping 981 lb-ft torque available from the moment your foot hits the electron exciter. The Karma seats four adults and can hit 60 mph in 5.9 seconds.

The sumptious interior of the Karma. It looks like a nice place to spend time.

Fisker Automotive got more than $500 million from the Department of Energy to build the Karma in the US. Fisker bought a shuttered GM plant in Delaware and is in the process of converting it into a shiny modern factory to produce its sleek sports car. It’s going to have to sell lots of cars to pay back its investors.

Solar panels on the Karma help charge the batteries even when it's parked.

Below is the Fisker Karma’s first “Get Hot” commercial:

In the meantime, the Karma is being built in Uusikaupunki, Finland by contract manufacturer Valmet Automotive. Valmet also builds the Boxster/Caymen line for Porsche at this plant. The Karma began production on March 21, 2011 so deliveries may happen as soon as this summer. I’m sure Fisker Santa Monica is taking orders. Just have your checkbook ready.

Karma 1 rolls off the assembly line in Finland

Motor Trend’s Technical Editor, Kim Reynolds, gives his take on the Karma: