Destino, a Vette-powered Fisker Karma, makes a surprise appearance in Detroit


Just around the time all the journalists like myself decide to turn in before rising at 6 a.m. for the Detroit auto show press days, this arrived in the inbox: the Destino sedan, a four-door luxury car holding the engine and drivetrain of the Chevy Corvette ZR1, set to go on sale later this year with the guidance of former General Motors chief car guy Bob Lutz. The real news: It's actually the body work and interior of the troubled Fisker Karma, minus the tricky plug-in electric/gasoline engine power source. What. The. Heck?

Fisker's world of pain hasn't eased lately, what with their battery supplier's bankruptcy shutting production down since July and its $34 million insurance claim for vehicles lost in Hurricane Sandy heading to a court fight, forcing the company to seek partners and additional investors. Certainly no one person could claim authorship of the thought that Fisker would have been better off building an old-fashioned gasoline-only version of the Karma before attempting to blend lithium batteries and a gasoline generator.

According to a news release, the Destino is the work of Lutz and industrialist Gilbert Villereal, a name unfamiliar in automotive circles. While acknowledging Henrik Fisker, but without mentioning the Karma, Lutz said the Destino was modified to fit the 638-hp V-8 from the Corvette ZR1, along with either a manual or automatic transmission to create a rival to the Porsche Panamera and Aston Martin Rapide.

This raises far more questions than answers. If Fisker wanted to sell a non-EV version of its own sedan, why wouldn't it do so on its own? (I've asked Fisker officials for comment; I'll update when I hear back). Outside of a new grille, badges and quad exhaust pipes in the rear bumper, the Destino is the Karma; wouldn't such a copycat product confuse future Karma buyers if the company was ever planning on having any? Team Destino also says their sedans will be built in Auburn Hills, but the Karma is assembled in Valmet, Finland, and isn't really known as "MTR CITY" despite the tag on the Destino's flank.

I'm no industrialist, and I don't have five decades of carmaking experience on my resume like Lutz does. But the only way such a venture makes sense would be if Fisker itself made a deal to sell its half-finished chassis from the Denmark to this new venture as a way to raise much-needed cash. The Karma's massive battery tunnel could easily hold the exhaust equipment of the ZR1, and even with a 6.2-liter V-8, the Destino would likely weigh less, go faster and handle better than the Karma. It could be the start of a interesting coachbuilt American automaker — but it looks like a white flag for the Fisker Karma.