Henrik Fisker’s firm starts selling innovative cars in late 2010, but he says “we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel” in setting up a retail network for his fledging enterprise.

So Fisker Automotive Inc. is dualing with existing luxury-brand dealerships across the country.

“We have 45 U.S. dealers who will be up and ready by the end of this year,” says Fisker, CEO of the namesake company, maker of the upcoming Karma plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle.

By 2011, the firm plans to sell 15,000 PHEVs a year. First to market will be a Karma sedan with a base price of $87,900. A convertible comes next, then a third variant.

“We have a strong dealer network and can expand fast,” says Fisker, a Dane who first made his mark on the industry as a car designer for premium brands such as Aston Martin.

Signed-up dealers are in various stages of readiness, he says. Some of them, such as Tom Price of the Price Family Dealerships in San Francisco, already have sold their first-round allotments of Karmas. “Other dealers are ramping up.”

Despite the Internet age, Fisker believes in the traditional retail system.

“The Internet is fine, but we still feel that people want to go to a dealership,” he says. “What if you want to talk to someone about the car? What if you have a problem? What about service?”

The most Fisker dealerships, eight, will be in California, followed by five in Texas and three in Florida.

Most retail representation centers on big metro market, such as Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Denver and Los Angeles. A British Columbia store is the only Canadian outlet so far.

Finnish contract-assembler Valmet Automotive Inc. will build the first Karmas. They are touted as eco-friendly yet stylish cars that can reach 60 mph (96 km) in six seconds and top 125 mph (200 km).

Plans call for a recently purchased former General Motors Co. plant in Delaware to make a lower-cost, second-generation model by 2016.

Fisker Automotive this month secured access to $115.3 million more in private equity funding to develop PHEVs. The firm needs the private-sector funding to obtain a $528.7 million public loan from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Raising $115 million in these times speaks volumes about the value of our business model and the vast potential of plug-in hybrids,” Fisker says.

Investors include A123 Systems, Ace Investments and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The former signed a multi-year agreement to supply lithium-ion batteries that will power the Karma.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com