Michael Hart, co-founder at Mono, said that although the car has
been out since December, the Wall Street Journal ads are a way to
introduce the car to its target audience. Mr. Hart said that the
technology Fisker uses is innovative and "an amazing achievement."
The technology makes Karma essentially an electric car with a range
extender--it can drive a limited number of miles on electric,
then the driver can switch to the gas engine.
The company has had its share of criticism. Fisker, founded in
2007 by namesake auto man Henrik Fisker, has issued a couple of
recalls: 240 Karmas were recalled due to faulty batteries late last
year and another 19 were recalled earlier this month because of
hose clamps that might leak coolant onto the battery -- basically,
a fire hazard. The company has said that the issue came from
defective parts from its suppliers, but acknowledges that it was
the Fisker brand at the end of the day.
Fisker also faced some PR headaches when the demo model Consumer
Reports was driving broke down in what the
magazine called "the first time in memory that we have had a car
that is undriveable before it has finished our check-in process."
The Consumer Reports piece prompted a number of complaints from other
Fisker drivers. On the other hand, Motor Trend gave the car a
mostly positive review, though it
did mention a number of hiccups in the preproduction car.
Fisker and the Obama administration have been criticized for a
$529 million governmental loan from the Department of Energy's 2009
Advanced Technologies Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program to Fisker.
(Tesla, another luxury carmaker, was also granted a loan.) The loan
brought up comparisons to the ill-fated Solyndra, a solar company
that was granted a half-billion dollar loan by the Department of
Energy in 2009, but ultimately shuttered after bankruptcy.
Roger Ormisher, director of global PR for Fisker, said that the
ads are not a reaction to the bad PR, but more of a way for the
company to tell the story of its journey, particularly that it's
difficult to bring new technology to market. "The ads are about
celebrating the achievement of bringing a new car company to market
during one of the worst economic downturns ever," while
acknowledging that it isn't easy, he said. He added that "there are
always critics and skeptics of any new project, especially one that
's been in the political spotlight. But this is underlining what we
Karma, which is the only Fisker car on the market (although the
Atlantic was announced earlier this year and is expected to come
out in the next couple years), has sold 1,000 units in the first
quarter, tallying $100 million in sales.
As for the relationship between Mono and eMaxx, Mr. Blett
described eMaxx, which began working with Fisker in February, as a
sort of general contractor that works directly with clients to
develop marketing strategy and help the carmaker choose agencies to
suit its needs. Mono, which started working with the brand in May,
is essentially the lead creative agency, but more agency
relationships are expected to be forged this year.