Fisker recently released additional details on its Rōnin Super GT, an all-electric convertible that was showcased at the company’s first-ever Product Vision Day on August 3, 2023. One of the biggest shockers was the price tag ($385,000), but before we got to further details, let’s talk a bit about why manufacturers are seemingly wasting time on such expensive vehicles.
Halo Cars Make Sense
Electric vehicles (EVs) have a long history of being expensive. In the early days of electric cars, they were available for as little as $1,000, but most were considered luxury items, with fancy interiors and expensive materials. By 1910, the average price of an electric vehicle was around $3,000, which was quite high at that time. However, it’s worth noting that electric cars faced tough competition from gasoline-powered vehicles, which were becoming more affordable.
In the early 20th century, the introduction of Henry Ford’s Model T made gasoline-powered cars widely available and affordable. Gasoline cars quickly gained popularity due to their lower cost, while electric cars remained more expensive. The Model T, for example, cost only $650 by 1912, significantly cheaper than most electric cars.
It was the merger of electric and gas that eventually killed the EV. One of the biggest problems with gas-powered vehicles was having to crank-start them, a task that was difficult for women and dangerous for everyone. But, using an electric motor to turn the engine and get it started meant that gas was easy.
Fast forward to the present day, the market for electric vehicles has seen significant growth and advancements. While EVs are now more accessible and affordable than ever before, there are still luxury models that come with a hefty price tag.
While Tesla’s vehicles started out well over $100,000, other manufacturers are rushing into that market segment to start their journey to going electric as Tesla’s vehicles leave it. The limited-production Hummer EV, the upcoming Escalade IQ, and the Cadillac Celestiq are all good examples of what just one manufacturer (GM) is doing. The last one, the Celestiq, is supposed to come in at a starting price of $340,000, and that’s before any expected customizations buyers are expected to make to order.
Manufacturers have several reasons for offering something expensive.
The biggest one is that they’re not ready to build EVs in sufficient quantity yet to offer competitive pricing. This will change as companies get supply chains and manufacturing going, but today they’re trying to show that they can do electric with lower-production vehicles, and then work their way down the market.
Another reason to start at the top or offer something at the top is to finance technological improvements. New technology is hard to go straight into mass production with, as both costs and experience with the technology are limited. Doing advanced vehicles for just a few people both justifies a high price for people wanting something rare and exclusive and gives manufacturers an opportunity to climb the learning curve before they’re neck-deep in it with a high-production, low-price, low-margin model.
Manufacturers have been doing this for decades with ICE vehicles, and it has always helped the brand feel more premium to buyers. Not everyone could afford a Corvette, but when the Chevette and Cavalier had the same bowtie, it at least helped them look a little better.
Fisker Is Getting Into This Space
Fisker’s leader wasn’t afraid to tell us why they’re doing a $385,000 vehicle:
“The Fisker Rōnin is for people who love to drive, but who are also thrilled by automotive art and design and demand that their high-performance vehicles embrace a sustainable future,” Chairman and CEO Henrik Fisker said. “Our goal was to create a classic grand touring car, updated for the 21st century and engineered for customers who want to drive from Los Angeles to Napa Valley on a single charge or take on the autobahn at steady high speeds without concern for battery capacity.”
In other words, this is anything but the everyman’s car.
Fisker’s stated goal is to offer exceptional utility in the high-end market with Rōnin, a response to the growing number of performance SUVs introduced by renowned manufacturers, but they wanted this utility in a supercar. Rōnin is designed to comfortably accommodate five passengers while leveraging the advantages of an electric vehicle’s layout to provide remarkable cargo capacity, a rarity in the supercar world. Boasting an estimated 0-60mph time of two seconds and a top speed of 170mph (275km/h), Rōnin is set to compete with and even surpass existing supercars, all while delivering impressive range. The emphasis will be on driver enjoyment, though optional autonomous technologies will also be available.
The rear butterfly doors allow convenient access to the rear seats. A single door handle is sufficient as the front doors open electrically through handle swiping or smartphone activation. The handle extends when the rear doors are ready to open. All doors can be remotely opened using a smartphone. The foldable carbon-fiber hardtop is also smartphone activated and automatically retracts into the trunk, creating additional luggage space. There is also front trunk space available.
It’s also impressive under the skin. The Fisker Rōnin boasts a unique aluminum space frame with integrated battery cells for a targeted 600-mile range. Carbon-fiber 23-inch wheels contribute to its lightweight design. Inside, the Rōnin sets new standards for sustainable luxury with innovative recycled and sustainable materials. Additionally, it features a 17.1-inch high-resolution screen and a driver-centric instrument cluster.
The Efficiency Tech Will Probably Trickle Down
While few can both afford to spend this kind of money and actually want to spend it on a car, I’m not going to be as quick to ridicule it as I do vehicles like the Hummer EV. Instead of coming in at 9,000 pounds and serving as a platform for conspicuous consumption, the Ronin seems to be made for lightweight efficiency. They haven’t explained exactly how they’re integrating batteries into the space frame, but it sounds like something that cheaper vehicles can eventually benefit from.
If it works out, hopefully Fisker will not only make the technology available at a lower price point later, but license it to other manufacturers.
Featured image by Fisker.
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