IRVINE, CA — Former Aston Martin head designer Henrik Fisker, who formed a company in 2005 to build rebodied Mercedes-Benz and BMW cars, announced that he now plans to produce a line of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Fisker is joining Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide Inc. on the hybrid project. He said the vehicles, to be sold with a Fisker badge, will debut in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

"You don't have to drive a small, ugly car because you want to be environmentally correct," said Fisker, who designed the Aston Martin DB9 and BMW Z8.

Fisker hopes to sell 15,000 "eco-chic" vehicles a year for about $100,000 apiece through a small network of franchised dealers. That kind of volume would be a big jump for Fisker. His current enterprise, Fisker Coachbuild LLC, has delivered just 14 of its Fisker Tramonto vehicles and is in the process of delivering its first Fisker Latigo. The Tramonto is a restyled Mercedes-Benz SL55 coupe, and the Latigo a rebodied BMW 6-series convertible. At launch, Fisker said he wanted to sell 150 of each model.

Fisker declined to provide information about the vehicle architecture, other than to say it is not an existing platform. He would not say how the franchise network would be set up or when cars would be ready for sale. He also would not say whether the vehicle would be a coupe, sedan, SUV or wagon - or who would build it. Fisker said he is negotiating with major Tier 1 suppliers to outsource production.

Quantum has done engineering work in the past on the GM Sequel and H2Hummer.

Fisker wouldn't talk about the kind of battery that would be used, but Quantum owns a stake in Advanced Lithium Power Inc., of Vancouver, BC. That points to vehicles with lithium ion batteries rather than the cur-rent industry-standard nickel-metal hydride. Several automakers are working on lithium ion power but have been stymied by battery packs that can overheat and be a fire hazard. In April, Quantum and Advanced Lith-ium signed an agreement to provide the technical underpinnings for Chinese-built hybrid vehicles.

Fisker said he would unveil details at the Detroit auto show. He said he has been working with Quantum "for quite some time." Both Quantum and Fisker are based in Irvine, Calif.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials