Video: Detroit, watch out for this Karma

The Karma is scheduled to become the first plug-in hybrid on the road late next year, well ahead of Chevy's Volt.

On a test track in Southern California, a radical new car is getting its first workout.

The zebra stripes camouflage it from competitors, but you still get a good sense of the Fisker Automotive Karma, the brainchild of designer Henrik Fisker, who's trying to succeed where Detroit so far has failed, CBS News business correspondent Anthony Mason reports.


"The vision is to do a high performance, luxurious, sexy-looking car which gets better miles per gallon than the Prius," Fisker said.

The Karma is a plug-in hybrid . It can go 50 miles on an electrical charge before a gas engine kicks in to power its lithium ion battery.

"The average driver will get something around 100 miles per gallon," Fisker said.

The Karma's top speed is 125 mph. The initial price tag: $80,000. But within a few years, Fisker hopes to produce a $40,000 version of this lean, green machine.

It's got other Earth-friendly features.

"The entire roof's a solar panel," Fisker said. "Actually it's the first curved solar panel in the world."

The Danish-born Fisker, who was a designer at BMW and Aston Martin, then owned by Ford, grew frustrated by the bureaucracy at the big car companies, so he started his own.

"We don't have the overhead that plagues a lot of the large car companies. And we can move extremely fast," he said.

Unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in January, the Karma is scheduled to become the first plug-in hybrid on the road late next year, well ahead of Chevy's Volt .

For all the debate over whether the U.S. government should bail out Ford, GM and Chrysler, consider the biggest investor in Fisker is the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. They've poured nearly $60 million into the car.

When the U.S. rescue package is discussed, the California-based Fisker is never mentioned.

Should the government be giving them some of the money?

"I think they should actually because we are pioneers," Fisker said. "We are coming out, leading the way and showing how it could be done."

Small, nimble and fast--in the future the American auto industry may need to look a lot like Fisker.

 

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