LOS ANGELES -- It might not seem like the best time to start a business, especially a car company.
Automakers have requested billions in federal aid to avoid bankruptcy. GM's once admired Saturn brand is at the end of the production line. Saab is under review by stakeholders. Hummer might be sold later this month.
Despite those headlines, Henrik Fisker is starting his own car company.
His Karma hybrid luxury sedan rolled into the Geneva Motor Show this week. The appearance follows what might have been many Angelenos' first glimpse of the sleek plug-in when Fisker aired two 60-second ads last month during an Academy Awards preview show on KTLA.
In January, Fisker announced plans for its worldwide retail network, set to begin sales later this year.
Is he serious?
In the April 2009 issue of Road and Track magazine, Matt DeLorenzo draws comparisons between the Fisker venture and other startups.
"...Fisker is not the first, nor is he likely to be the last, to see his name on an automobile. However, it seems that for every Ford or Porsche, there is a Tucker or DeLorean...
"While Fisker can learn from the successes of Porsche, a company that began with just one car and now today virtually controls the much larger Volkswagen Group, perhaps better lessons for him can be drawn from the DeLorean experience."
That experience started with the stainless steel DMC-12, a car designed for performance and safety. It ended in financial ruin for John Z. DeLorean's company.
Instead of a relatively affordable option for the practical driving enthusiast, the car became better know as a time machine in Steven Spielberg's "Back to the Future" movies and DeLorean ended up in court on charges of drug trafficking. He was later acquitted.
DeLorenzo notes that Fisker and DeLorean both faced difficult financial times. But unlike DeLorean, Fisker's product can benefit from an industry with a "multitude of suppliers that can build parts, modules and even whole cars for manufacturers, an ideal environment for low-volume production runs, and in Fisker's case, startups."