Car designer, Henrik Fisker is responsible for some of the most ambitious and forward thinking automobiles that the luxury sector has ever seen – including the BMW Z8, Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Aston Martin DB9, Artega GT, VLF Rocket, and Ford Shelby GR-1 – as well as a trio of cars bearing his own surname like the Fisker Karma, Tramonto, and Latigo.
Fisker is once again poised to challenge the notion of what is possible in automotive design with the planned roll-out of new cars under the banner, Fisker Inc, which he believes will further lead us in a direction where internal combustion engines with finally be replaced by all-electric cars once and for all.
Dubbed “EMotion” – and first debuting at CES in Las Vegas in January – the car promises 0-60 mph in under 3 seconds, a top speed of 160 mph, a motor which delivers the equivalency of 780hp, and a 400+ mile range. In contrast, Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster, boasts attributes like 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds, a top speed of 250 mph and a range of 620 miles.
Yet, one could make the case that they’re quite comparable given EMotion’s $130,000 USD price tag which is $70,000 USD less than the Roadster. Needless to say, Henrik Fisker’s reemergence in the space has led many outlets to insinuate that there is a burgeoning rivalry between he and Elon Musk – something he has embraced as the perceived “underdog.”
We recently caught up with Fisker to discuss not only the future of automobiles, but also ethical responsibilities he feels when designing, and a place he thinks every car enthusiast should take a spin in their lifetimes.
As you look back at your illustrious career, is there a car design that you hold most dear to your heart? What makes it so special for you?
The Fisker Karma. It was a unique challenge to design the world’s first premium electric vehicle with a range extender. I had complete freedom starting from a clean sheet of paper. I created dramatic proportions and had to design a “Fisker Brand” DNA. The Fisker Karma is my daily driver, until I get my Fisker EMotion all-electric car.
What automotive designs that you had no hand in are you envious of?
Historic car: the Ferrari 275 GTB, great proportions, clean sculpture and perfect graphics. New car: the 2018 Porsche 911: I love the delicate clean sculpture of the rear fenders.
Can you talk a little about the process and timeline that goes into making a luxury automobile. From the moment you sketch something to the time it rolls off the assembly line, what is actually occurring? Was any design particularly easy or hard to get to the marketplace?
In a traditional large car company it usually takes longer, with more meetings and more compromises, but with higher budgets. Total time between 3 1/2 to 4 years. At Fisker we work on a 2 1/2 year product cycle, as we have fewer meetings and compromises. After sketches, there is a 4 month timeline where engineering and design works closely together between digital and full size clay modeling to freeze overall design and proportions, 2 months of fine tuning, and the last 24 months are pure execution and fulfilling all performance targets, legal requirements and manufacturing engineering.
I’ve spoken to many sneaker designers in the past who often cite automobiles as a major source of inspiration. Why do you think car design impacts so many different creative fields?
Essentially, automotive design is the most difficult product to design in the world, with a glossy exterior and a soft interior consisting of multiple individual product designs that all have to come together, fulfilling the strictest legal requirements.
You’ve worked quite literally on land and sea – on cars, motorcycles and luxury yachts. Given our desire to reach new realms, does space interest you at all as a designer?
I prefer designing objects that impact people’s daily lives in a positive manner. If I can put a smile on somebody’s face, by looking at one of my designs, even if they don’t own it, it’s my biggest reward.
Autonomy and convenience seem to be things that people of this generation are pining for and certainly impact how cars and motorcycles will be designed in the future. I’ve discussed this with Edgar Heinrich, head of design at BMW Motorrad, when they unveiled a bike that couldn’t tip over. With that being said, do designers run the risk of making something so perfect that driving becomes mundane, and thus, no longer perceived as a luxury item?
I believe the future of mobility will be even more fragmented, where the same person will require everything from easy non-emotional transport to an extreme emotional experience. The future of OEM’s is going to provide a unique brand experience, rather than a specific type of vehicle. We (Fisker) will provide an exciting emotional experience no matter what Fisker vehicle you are in.
After watching Netflix’s ‘Dirty Money’ which touched on VW’s bad practices as it related to its emission standards, do you think there needs to be more transparency as it relates to automotive engineering? It seems to me people want ethically grown food, farm raised animals, non-sweat shop clothes, but don’t put a lot of time into thinking about how their cars are built.
The car industry is already changing and recognizing the new trend of ethics and responsibility that goes with manufacturing vehicles. At Fisker, it’s our goal to help cut pollution by still providing exciting and emotional mobility.
Many editorial outlets often mention your name in relation to a rivalry with Elon Musk and Tesla. Do you see it as something that fuels your competitive spirit as a designer?
Competition is good and pushes you to do better, especially if you are the “underdog”. I’m currently enjoying the freedom to be radically innovative both in the battery development and vehicle development spheres, as we need to push the boundaries to the extreme to be able to compete.
Do you learn as much from the failures as you do from the successes?
You actually lean more from failure, as it makes you humble and forces you to innovate even more and pay even more attention to all areas of the business, to make sure you will be successful.
Is there a place/road in the world that should be on every driver’s bucket list? What makes that place so ideal for getting behind the wheel?
Starting out on the German Autobahn with no speed limit and drive over the Alps into Italy. The feeling of free speed on a public road, later combined with a great curvy road with the beautiful setting of the mountains, is the ultimate driving experience.
What do you predict for the future of luxury automobiles?
The luxury automobile will be even more emotional and unique, moving away from being a traditional sedan or coupe with an upgraded leather interior. It will be divided into two main segments – the autonomous led luxury experience and the personal “driver” experience. Both will be much more extremely designed than today cars, as those customers will be using their cars less, thus wanting a even more unique experience when they do. We will all still own a vehicle in the future, but use it less than 50% of the time we use it today, due to other mobility choices.
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- Main & Featured Image: Fisker Inc.