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Aliso Inspiration

Luxury automaker Karma Automotive has been rolling out its $130,000 2018 Revero models across the country over the past year, but the hefty price tag doesn’t seem to be exclusive enough for the Irvine-based luxury electric car company.

That’s because it unveiled the limited-edition Aliso Edition of the car last week.

It starts at $145,000, and only 15 will be available for purchase in the U.S. and Canada.

The automaker introduced the reimagined Revero model in 2016 and started shipping it to 10 independent dealerships last year. Executives have previously said the company seeks to sell about 900 units of its main Revero line this year, which would result in about $120 million in sales for the privately held company.

Retail deliveries of the Aliso Edition are scheduled to start next month, and will extend until year-end.

Chief Executive Lance Zhou said the Aliso represents Karma’s definition of a custom car, and provides a blueprint for future exclusive offerings.

“It’s a specially-crafted luxury electric vehicle for a very select few who seek a truly unique product, and something we believe can be a model for how Karma approaches other unique custom editions and contribute to the sales growth of the company,” Zhou said in a statement.

Assembled at its 556,000-square-foot Moreno Valley plant, the Aliso Edition car will have high-end finishes inside and outside. The interior will have the model’s name embroidered on leather seats by famed Scottish leather manufacturer Bridge of Weir Leather Co., as well as “sustainably sourced” platinum and red burl wood finishes on the console and dashboard.

Its exterior features a Revero Aliso insignia and custom carbon-fiber wheels with metallic orange-colored calipers.

The name of the new car is a nod to Karma’s backyard in Orange County. Aliso Beach is about a 15-mile drive from the company’s new headquarters in the Spectrum area of Irvine.

“Our company, our vehicles and our passion are rooted in Southern California,” said Barny Koehler, president of Karma’s China division, and the company’s chief innovation officer, in a statement.

Karma emphasizes its ties to the local community on its website, which features videos starring a number of well-known, and hipper, area business executives, including David August Heil, founder of Costa Mesa menswear brand David August; Elyse Walker, owner and fashion director of Newport Beach luxe clothing shop elysewalker, and Chef Amar Santana, owner of restaurants Broadway in Laguna Beach and Vaca in Costa Mesa.

Another tie to the community is the fast-growing base of employees at its 262,000-square-foot headquarters it bought last year for $56 million.

The company added about 40 local employees this year, including additions to its high-voltage battery and electrical engineering teams.

The hires brought total employment to 1,000, including a local workforce of nearly 600.

The company still has several job openings posted on its website, nearly 50 of them in Irvine, from public relations to IT. A few positions require fluency in Chinese.

New Strategy

The addition to Karma’s lineup is just one of several big announcements coming out of the automaker’s headquarters.

Zhou, who succeeded Thomas Corcoran last year, outlined a new business and product strategy plan during a companywide employee meeting last week at Karma’s headquarters, which it relocated last year from Costa Mesa.

Details of its business strategy haven’t been released publicly, but the company said in a statement that it plans to deliver “innovative design, technology and personalization.”

“Our future is strong and well-funded,” Zhou said. “We have the right people in place to achieve our goals, a solid product plan that spans the next decade, a state-of-the-art assembly plant in Southern California, and relationships with the right partners who can help us accelerate technology and product development.”

Burning Rubber

Karma has the backing of parent company Wanxiang Group Corp., the largest China-based automotive components company, with more than $23 billion in revenue.

The auto parts giant purchased the former Fisker Automotive and Technology Group LLC in a 2014 bankruptcy court auction for about $149 million in cash.

Karma has since revamped its business, setting up the Moreno Valley factory in 2015, followed by an announcement to build a $375 million facility next year in China with capacity to produce 50,000 cars a year. While Chinese regulators approved the plan in 2016, it’s unclear when construction on the facility will start.

Karma’s Moreno Valley plant can produce up to 3,000 units a year.

It hasn’t disclosed sales numbers.

Karma announced the expansion of its dealer network last month, opening locations in Westlake Village, Seattle and Chicago to bring its retail footprint to 15 dealerships in North America.

It made plans in April to expand its 2,000-square-foot Newport Beach showroom on Coast Highway after signing a long-term lease for the neighboring building, the former 930 Sushi restaurant. It’s hiring for the location, along with its Irvine headquarters.

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