Fisker Karma: Solyndra on Wheels?

The title of this post comes from the fantastical Andrew Fox, who laments another case of corporate welfare promoted in the name of energy conservation: the Fisker Karma, a new electric luxury automobile touted by its manufacturer as “a bold expression of uncompromised responsible luxury.”

Mr. Fox caught wind of the farce as he came across an auto transport rig carrying four Fisker Karmas en route to Washington, DC’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where Mr. Henrik Fisker himself was set to preside over their roll-out.

The delivery vehicle, incidentally, had to make awkward detours through the nation’s capital due to street blockages caused by the “Occupy Wall Street” protests at McPherson Square, a point brought home by Mr. Fox near the end of his noteworthy blog post on the topic. Here is an excerpt:

Our tax dollars at work… a half-billion dollar loan (actually $529 million) from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a hybrid toy for the wealthy and/or celebri-licious (like Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the first customers) that, in real world driving, won’t get much better mileage than your average crossover utility vehicle. Not only that, but the cars are manufactured in Finland—that’s right, Finland—and shipped here for sale, where their purchasers will then receive a $7,500 tax credit for buying one (the “cheap” base model starts at $96,895, with the full-zoot Eco Chic model going for a bargain $108,900)….

We the taxpayers are on the hook for more than half a billion dollars, about the same amount that got loaned to Solyndra, another “green manufacturer,” before they went bankrupt. At least Solyndra was manufacturing their products in this country, providing American manufacturing jobs (if short-lived jobs), and making a product that average Americans could conceivably afford. Fisker is manufacturing these gorgeous Leonardo DiCaprio toys in Finland. And the kicker, for those of you who would still claim that the risk of half a billion tax dollars is justified by environmental gains… contrary to the company’s initial hype, the Karma will only run for thirty-two miles on its electric motors before its turbocharged gasoline engine needs to kick in (as opposed to the initial estimate of fifty miles). Once that occurs, the Karma gets about the same mileage as a Ford Explorer. Not the new Explorer, even. The older, gas-hog, body-on-frame model. We’re talking twenty miles per gallon, folks. So much for your “green investment.”

Those Occupy Wall Street-types in their tents at MacPherson Square? If they really, truly are bugged by corporate welfare, they need to schlep their signs and their chants and their anger over to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Right now. Because the Fisker Karma is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to corporate welfare.

For more, see Isaac Martin’s piece in American Thinker and this press report of the White House’s reply to the Fisker Karma controversy and the links therein. I’m sure additional coverage will be forthcoming.

HT: Arnold Kling at EconLog

Carl Close is Research Fellow and Senior Editor for The Independent Institute and Assistant Editor of The Independent Review and editor of The Lighthouse, The Independent Institute’s weekly e-mail newsletter.
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