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Karma Automotive’s Rapid Growth Prompts Move to a New Home

August 26, 2016, 8:58 PM UTC
Karma Revero
Karma Revero (PRNewsFoto/Karma Automotive)
Courtesy of PR NEWSWIRE

Karma Automotive, a rebooted version of the failed luxury electric car startup Fisker Automotive, is taking over more than 262,000 square feet of space once used by Kawasaki motorcycles and turning it into its own global headquarters.

The move to the massive facility in Irvine, Calif., which won’t begin until the fourth quarter of 2016, illustrates the company’s rapid growth since it was purchased in 2014 by Wanxiang Group.

Just three years ago, Fisker Automotive looked poised for the scrap heap. The company, which was founded by designer and entrepreneur Henrik Fisker in 2007, was out of money despite receiving $1.2 billion from public and private funds.

But Wanxiang Group, a Chinese conglomerate that makes automotive components, snapped up Fisker’s assets for $149.2 million in a bankruptcy auction in 2014. (Wanxiang is the same company that bought failed battery supplier A123 Systems.) Wanxiang moved the automaker’s production equipment from Finland to California and then rebooted the brand with a new name, car, and tech.

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Karma Automotive is now preparing to sell the Revero, an electric hybrid that will be built in a 555,670-square-foot factory in Moreno Valley, Calif. Earlier this month, the company revealed a teaser photo and a few details of the Revero, a sporty sedan with a solar roof and an updated drivetrain, electrical controls, and infotainment system. The official launch of the vehicle, and when the public can begin reserving it, is Sept. 8. The company has been building the Revero since April and has not said when it will deliver the cars. The electric hybrid vehicles are currently undergoing testing.

Just 14 months ago, the company had about 240 people working at its headquarters in Costa Mesa, less than 60 miles from its factory. At the time, a spokeswoman said the company expected to create 150 full-time manufacturing jobs at the factory.

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Today, Karma Automotive has more than 625 employees who work at its factory and offices. About 125 people work at the Moreno Valley factory. The remaining 500 employees work in engineering, supplier quality, sales, and marketing at its offices in California and Michigan. Its Detroit office employs about 20 people with plans to reach close to 100 people.

“We’re busting at the seams here,” Karma’s chief marketing officer Jim Taylor told Fortune. “People were literally sitting in the halls before we rented a second facility about a block away.” Now that space is filling up.

The company wants to move to this larger facility in Irvine to accommodate existing staff and future growth, said Taylor. Karma Automotive will have more than 700 employees by the end of 2016 and is on target to approach 800 in 2017.

Parent company Wanxiang appears to have even bigger plans for Karma—beyond the 3,000 or so luxury Reveros it plans to make. Wanxiang filed an application for an environmental review for a $375 million factory in Hangzhou, China that could make as many as 50,000 electric cars per year, according to a Bloomberg report in August. The application indicates that most of those cars could be a cheaper electric vehicle called the Atlantic.