In 2006, a mechanical engineer dreamed about making a sportscar company compete against big brands such as Porsche, Lotus, or Ferrari. That mechanical engineer was Klaus Dieter Frers, and the company he founded was Artega.
His dreams looked great and, in 2007, he unveiled its intentions in the form of the Artega GT. It was a light, nimble, aerodynamic sports car that could fight well against a Porsche Cayman or a Lotus Evora. But the world financial crisis hit him hard. The dreams were turned into a nightmare when most of his customers withdrew their Artega GT orders. Eventually, in 2009, the car finally reached the assembly line. But the company was already in big debt. A Mexican investment firm, Tresalia Capital, took over the German carmaker’s control and tried to save the brand and produced the ordered vehicles. Frers left the company and returned to Paragon AG.; his other company specialized in producing display systems for the automotive industry.
But the problems were not over for Artega. With a new CEO on-board, Dr. Wolfgang Ziebart, former head of Continental AG (tiremaker) and Infineon AG (semiconductor manufacturer), started to produce electric vehicles. The new management saw where the market was going and tried to be one step ahead. Unfortunately for him, the business plan didn’t work.
Artega already had an excellent platform, the GT, and all it had to do was replace the Volkswagen-sourced V-6 engine and gearbox with an electric powertrain. The solution worked and, in 2015, the company unveiled the Artega SE, a battery-powered version for its GT sibling. Still, the sales were not as good as expected, despite the SE’s performance and up to 300 km (186 miles) range. In terms of performance, it was quicker than the GT.
Still, the sales were not very good, but at least now the company knew where to go next: in the mass-market segment. Artega introduced the Karo in 2015, which resembled the 1955 BMW Isetta, but with an electric powertrain instead of a gasoline engine. The carmaker had to do anything it could in order to survive, and the new electric trend could work better for it. Under the bubble-shaped bodywork was an ATV-like chassis, with the two occupants riding two-up style. In 2020, Artega announced Karo’s price, which was similar to other budget electric, four-seat cars.
At the same time as the Karo, the German carmaker unveiled the Scalo, which was very close to a production model. Unlike many other electric vehicles on the market, it used batteries and high-power capacitors. It was powered by two motors, one for each rear wheel, with a combined power of 300 kW. Artega used space engineering and aviation materials to build the vehicle. Its polyurethane-carbon bodywork followed the same shape as the Artega GT but with smaller air-intakes. It was more expensive than a Porsche Turbo from the same year.
In 2017, Artega revived an older idea used in the famous McLaren F1 supercar of the ’90s when it unveiled the Superelettra concept. Four electric motors powered the electric supercar, one for each wheel, but with three seats inside, with the driver seating in the middle, flanked by its passengers. It was an evolution from the Scalo but showed a few different ideas, such as the rear-view cameras instead of mirrors. By the time of publication, Artega didn’t announce a price for it.
Despite its exciting products, the Artega’s fate was troubled. Its vehicles were either too expensive or too bold for the market and, without a proper dealer network and aftersales support, could not deliver more than 153 from its GT model. Its electric supercars were more expensive the Tesla’s products while the delivery time was uncertain.