MORENO VALLEY, Calif. — Southern California is back in the car manufacturing business. It has been more than two decades since GM closed its Van Nuys facility in 1992.
Fisker Automotive just changed its company name to Karma Automotive. City leaders here in Moreno Valley are ecstatic the company chose to build its electric vehicles at the facility here on Perris Boulevard.
“I think it’s an industry that we didn’t think we were going to get back,” said Mike Lee, the city’s economic development director. “It was just perfect timing for Fisker. We are bringing jobs into the Inland Empire. We are bringing a brand new industry into the IE. We are extremely excited they are coming to Moreno Valley, Calif.”
The luxury car maker first unveiled its Karma electric vehicle at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Former CEO and founder Henrik Fisker addressed the Automotive News Electrifying 100 conference at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich
“It goes 50 miles on pure electric and 250 miles in extended range mode so a total range of 300 miles,” Fisker said. “It is a high-performance car–It has 400 horsepower, it can go 125 mph. We really have a car with no compromise in this luxury segment.”
I test drove a Karma at the 2012 Dwell on Design conference in downtown Los Angeles.
In November 2013, Fisker filed for bankruptcy after failing to repay $139 million in federal loans. China’s biggest auto parts supplier, Wanxiang Group, purchased the assets for $149.2 million in a U.S. bankruptcy auction in February 2014.
Moreno Valley Economic Development Director Mike Lee said he first sat down with the folks from Fisker back in March of this year. Now, the luxury car maker is leasing a 556,000-square-foot industrial building in Moreno Valley for manufacturing purposes.
“In Moreno Valley, we have our own utility company,” he explained. “It is there to provide them electrical rebates–that is huge for any type of manufacturing. They use a lot of electricity. Our rebate program ranges from nine to 29 percent rebate. In addition to that, we have a Hire MoVal program to receive an additional four percent rebate for hiring Moreno Valley residents. They also signed up for that program, too. That’s 33-34 percent rebate back to them for their utility usage.”
The Riverside County city also houses distribution centers for big name companies such as Amazon, Skechers, Lowe’s Home Improvement, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Walgreens, Harmon Kardon, Harbor Freight Tools and Deckers Outdoor.
What makes Moreno Valley so attractive for these big name companies?
“I think it’s our business-friendly attitude,” Lee said. “When Fisker came in, we assembled a team. We had the fire chief there, myself with economic development, our community development director, our planning official there and our city manager. We even brought in people from the foreign trade zone. So you assemble a team of professionals going after this company. When you see the city manager talking to you when other cities are not doing that, that’s very impressive.”
Fisker posted a video on its Facebook page of a Karma being driven around the inside of the new facility. It looks empty as machines have not yet been brought in.
On Sept. 30, Costa Mesa-based Fisker Automotive changed it’s company name to Karma Automotive, after its model name. The automaker has relaunched and is on much more solid ground.
Representatives from Karma Automotive were not available for interview. However, their Chief Marketing Officer James Taylor, released a statement that reads, “With new ownership, a new management team, and a new production site, all here in California. It was time to communicate change.”
The company is looking to fill 150 positions, that pay as much as $26 per hour. They are looking for welders, fabricators, painters and production assemblers, and other skilled professionals. About 30 jobs have already been filled, but there are still lots of openings.
The city of Moreno Valley is hosting a joint job fair and art show called the ArtoberFest on Oct. 10 at the city’s Conference & Recreation Center. Karma Automotive will be there with a booth looking for new hires.
“Along with Fisker, this is a brand new industry that’s coming to this region,” the city’s economic development director added. “We’re hoping to bring similar types of industries. With Fisker, they’re probably going to look to bring in suppliers, any type of supplier that would complement the auto industry. We’re looking to expand on those. Also, we’re getting a lot of interest in green technology. We have battery manufacturers also looking.”
In addition, I’ve been told Karma has shown interest in having a booth at the upcoming 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show in November.
I asked Mike Lee if he would buy a Karma and he laughed. “It really depends on the price point. I think the Karma is going to be a luxury brand, but as they move forward, that’s something I could probably look into. It’s a beautiful car.”
Shiny, new electric vehicles are expected to roll off the line beginning in 2016.
For more information about the new Karma Automotive, visit www.karmaautomotive.com.