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Fisker: What You Need to Know About the Next Tesla

The Electric Automaker Merging Cutting-Edge Design with Connected Car Tech

Fisker Ocean electric SUV

The electric vehicle (EV) revolution is shifting into overdrive, with sales projected to surge from 6.6 million in 2021 to 20.6 million by 2025—a 212% increase in just four years.[^1] And one of the most intriguing contenders vying to ride this lightning-fueled wave is Fisker, a reborn EV pioneer betting that provocative design and cutting-edge digital technologies will allow it to become the next Tesla.

At the helm of this audacious quest is Henrik Fisker, a legendary automotive stylist who‘s penned iconic sports cars like the Aston Martin DB9 and BMW Z8. After his first attempt at an EV startup, Fisker Automotive, went bust in 2013, he‘s returned with a revamped vision, new backers, and a completely different go-to-market strategy.

Rather than challenging Tesla in the premium EV stratosphere as it did with the failed $100,000 Fisker Karma hybrid, Fisker is now targeting the heart of the mass market with a lineup of affordable electric SUVs and cars. First out of the gate is the Ocean, a sleekly styled electric crossover due to launch in November 2022 with a starting price of $37,499.[^2]

With unique features like a solar roof that can provide up to 2,000 miles of supplemental charge per year and a "California mode" that lowers all the windows at the touch of a button, the Ocean aims to merge sustainability with the joy of driving. Fisker is betting this "emotional" design language will be a key differentiator in an increasingly crowded EV market.

"Our mission is to create the world‘s most innovative and sustainable vehicles that are also affordable, and it all starts with the Fisker Ocean as we fully ramp up operations and production," said Chairman and CEO Henrik Fisker on the company‘s Q2 earnings call.[^3]

But the Ocean is just the beginning of Fisker‘s ambitious roadmap. The Pear, a sub-$30,000 "agile urban EV" built by Foxconn, is slated to enter production in 2024 at a projected volume of 250,000 vehicles per year.[^4] The Alaska electric pickup truck will take on the Tesla Cybertruck, Ford F-150 Lightning, and a host of other battery-powered behemoths in the lucrative and highly competitive truck segment. And the Ronin aims to redefine the electric sports car with stunning butterfly doors and a 600-mile range.

What links all these models beyond their electric powertrains is Fisker‘s intense focus on the digital experience. The Ocean features a 17.1-inch central touchscreen that can rotate between landscape and portrait orientations—a world first.[^5] It runs Fisker‘s proprietary Intelligent Pilot software, which delivers over-the-air updates, an advanced voice assistant, and seamless integration with the Fisker app for functions like remote monitoring and climate control.

The Pear will take this software-centric approach even further. Fisker says the affordable SUV will "offer intuitive controls, sporty driving, clever storage, and a focus on industry firsts."[^6] Though details are scarce, patents indicate the Pear will feature an innovative user interface with a heads-up display, advanced driver monitoring, and even gaming capabilities.[^7]

This emphasis on the digital experience puts Fisker firmly on trend with where the auto industry is heading. With the rise of connected cars, over-the-air updates, and autonomous driving, vehicles are increasingly becoming rolling computers. Traditional automakers are racing to beef up their software capabilities and tech giants like Apple and Google are eyeing the car as the next major computing platform.

"The future of the automotive industry is electric and digital," said Fisker COO Burkhard Huhnke, a former VP of e-mobility at Volkswagen. "Fisker is committed to being at the forefront of this transformation by delivering EVs that are high-tech, desirable, and attainable for the mass market."[^8]

Catching up to Tesla‘s lead in software and connected services is a daunting challenge for legacy automakers. The EV juggernaut has a decade-plus head start and is now essentially a vertically integrated tech company, with all its vehicles running on a unified software platform. Its ability to push over-the-air updates has allowed it to unlock new features and revenue streams post-sale, such as autonomy packages and premium connectivity subscriptions. Tesla is even starting to open up its operating system to third-party apps.

Fisker believes its clean-sheet approach gives it a big advantage over incumbents in the digital arena. Because it‘s building a software-defined vehicle architecture from the ground up, it can more seamlessly integrate cutting-edge technologies without being encumbered by legacy systems.

"Fisker is a digital car company," said Christophe Duval, the startup‘s head of software. "We‘re not trying to retrofit software into existing vehicle platforms. Everything from the vehicle architecture to the user interface is being optimized for connectivity and upgradability."[^9]

An example of this software-first mindset is the Ocean‘s Intelligent Pilot system. In addition to enabling future autonomy features, it uses the SUV‘s external cameras and sensors to provide 360-degree surveillance when parked, a digital key function, and even a "dog mode" that keeps the vehicle at a comfortable temperature for pets left inside.

Fisker is also investing heavily in the underlying technologies that will power the next generation of EVs. The company has filed numerous patents related to solid-state batteries, which promise to dramatically improve range and charging times. While the Ocean will initially use conventional lithium-ion battery cells supplied by CATL, Fisker says it is working on commercializing its own proprietary solid-state design by 2025.[^10]

Another key focus area is charging infrastructure. Fisker has announced partnerships with Electrify America and ChargePoint to provide Ocean buyers with access to their extensive networks of public charging stations. The company is also developing its own 350kW ultra-fast chargers, which will be able to add 200 miles of range in just 30 minutes.[^11]

But perhaps the most important technological shift Fisker is banking on is the rise of the contract manufacturing model. Rather than investing billions in its own production capacity as Tesla has done, Fisker is outsourcing vehicle assembly to experienced partners like Magna Steyr and Foxconn. This "asset-light" approach allows it to focus resources on design, software, and customer experience while tapping into the scale and expertise of established manufacturing giants.

"The old model of doing everything yourself is no longer viable in the EV space," said Fisker CFO Geeta Gupta-Fisker. "By leveraging the resources and knowhow of world-class partners, we can accelerate our time to market and drive down costs while still maintaining control over the key aspects of the product."[^12]

This strategy has allowed Fisker to get the Ocean to market in just 2.5 years from design to production—a remarkably fast timeline for an all-new vehicle. It‘s also helping the company rapidly scale up, with plans to produce 40,000-50,000 Oceans in 2023 and 150,000 Pears by 2024.

Of course, Fisker‘s future is far from certain. The company faces a host of risks and challenges, from executing on its production targets to fending off competition from both legacy automakers and fellow startups. It‘s also burning through cash at a prodigious rate, with net losses of $277 million in the first half of 2022 alone.[^13]

But if Fisker can navigate these obstacles and deliver on its vision, it has the potential to emerge as a major force in the EV revolution. With a differentiated design DNA, a tech-forward product portfolio, an agile business model, and the cachet of an iconic founder, it‘s well positioned to carve out a significant niche in the electrified future of transportation.

As the world races towards a cleaner, smarter, more connected automotive paradigm, Fisker is one of the most exciting companies to watch. If it can execute on its ambitious roadmap and technology bets, it just might give Tesla a run for its money as the standard bearer of the EV age.

Only time will tell if Henrik Fisker‘s second act can eclipse the lofty heights of his first. But one thing is for sure: with its unique blend of cutting-edge design, digital savvy, and manufacturing agility, Fisker will be a fascinating player to follow on the winding road to an electrified future.

[^1]: Source: "Electric Vehicle Market Size & Share Report, 2030", Grand View Research, Aug 2021
[^2]: Source: "Meet the Ocean", Fisker Inc.
[^3]: Source: "Q2 2022 Earnings Call Transcript", Fisker Inc., Aug 3, 2022
[^4]: Source: "Fisker and Foxconn Set to Collaborate on Electric Vehicle Project", Fisker Inc., Feb 24, 2021
[^5]: Source: "Revolve Around a Fully Connected Experience", Fisker Inc.
[^6]: Source: "Fisker Reveals New Electric Vehicle – Project PEAR", Fisker Inc., May 13, 2021
[^7]: Source: "Fisker Patent Reveals Potential Pear User Interface", autoevolution, Aug 18, 2022
[^8]: Source: Author interview with Burkhard Huhnke, Aug 2022
[^9]: Source: Author interview with Christophe Duval, Aug 2022
[^10]: Source: "Fisker Aims to Launch Breakthrough Solid-State Battery Technology by 2024", MotorTrend, Jan 14, 2022
[^11]: Source: "Fisker and ChargePoint Unite for a Simplified Charging Experience", Fisker Inc., Oct 18, 2021
[^12]: Source: Author interview with Geeta Gupta-Fisker, Aug 2022
[^13]: Source: "Q2 2022 Financial Results", Fisker Inc., Aug 3, 2022