DETROIT – Two months before delivering its first Destino to a customer, the Auburn Hills, MI, boutique automaker VL Automotive unveils a 2-door hardtop convertible concept called Destino Red.
The company buys electricKarmas and converts them into 638-hp 4-door touring Destino sedans by replacing electric motors and batteries with a Corvette ZR1 powertrain and changing the front and rear fascias, hood, deck and outside mirrors.
Today, VL Automotive has 10 chassis without EV powertrains that came directly fromand 15 Karmas it bought itself to gut. In addition, the company has in its Auburn Hills facility Karmas owned by individuals who want to change from electric to V-8 power.
“All of them are spoken for,” Gabriel Villarreal, son of co-owner Gilbert Villarreal and charged with marketing the cars, says at the Destino Red’s unveiling during the North American International Auto Show here.
Fisker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November and a legal battle over the purchase of its assets is continuing. The bankruptcy disrupted VL’s supply line, but the company slowly is moving ahead, and it developed the 2-door version to show it is not limited to one idea.
If the Fisker bankruptcy ends in a situation where developed chassis and interiors are not available, VL can change direction. But Villarreal says there now is little problem with supply, as there are dealers around the country with Fisker Karmas they cannot easily sell, as well as 2,000 Karma owners who may want to change from an electric motor to V-8.
The Destino Red concept was designed on the Karma chassis by industry veteran Bob Lutz, VL’s other co-founder. The Destino concept 4-door sedan was introduced at the 2013 Detroit show. The reconfigured cars have a Corvette LT1 (LS9) V-8 engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
"We have received hundreds of inquiries and orders from customers and dealers in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia," Lutz says in a press release. "We have also been pleasantly surprised by the number of Fisker owners inquiring about conversions. Gilbert and I are preparing for that work, too."
In addition to luxury sedans, and the hint of luxury touring coupes, VL Automotive is in the watch business, assembling $2,000 and $2,950 watches signed by Lutz in a clean room in Auburn Hills.
“People who buy a Destino get a watch with the same VIN number,” Gabriel Villarreal says.