Al Gore, Auto Tycoon

Al Gore—former vice president, Oscar-winner, Nobel laureate, and self-proclaimed inventor of the Internet—is jumping into the auto industry. The Wall Street Journal reports that a “tiny” Gore-financed car company specializing in hybrid luxury vehicles just got a $529 million loan from the U.S. government. Produced by a pair of Californian companies, the Karma will be a four-door plug-in electric hybrid featuring a lithium-ion battery slated to achieve 100 MPG fuel efficiency. Its audience, says car designer Henrik Fisker, is people like Gore: wealthy, environmentally enlightened drivers looking to ditch the Mercedes in favor of an environmentally P.C. ride. Naturally, Karma—and its hefty federal loan—already has critics. Citizens Against Government Waste notes, “This is not for average Americans,” a claim Fisker does not deny. The goal, he says, is to imitate the flat-screen television market: Start with something expensive and breathtaking, then work the price down.