The Truth About Cars » Fisker Karma The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:00:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Fisker Karma Just What Assets Does Fisker Have to Buy? Sat, 12 Oct 2013 13:30:16 +0000 The Fisker Karma's battery pack and drivetrain, supplied by Quantum Technologies

The Fisker Karma’s battery pack and drivetrain, supplied by Quantum Technologies

The Department of Energy today is auctioning off the paper for the $192 million it loaned to Fisker Automotive as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program. An obvious question is why would anyone want to buy that debt? Many of the press reports about the sale say that by purchasing the debt, a buyer could ultimately gain control of Fisker’s assets including intellectual property, like the extended range hybrid drivetrain and controls thereof. While Fisker may indeed have assets with some value, I’m not sure that anyone’s going to spend at least $30 million, the minimum bid required by the DoE, to be able to duplicate the Fisker Karma’s drivetrain.

I can understand why Bob Lutz, either participating or not with Wanxiang, would want access to the Karma’s design as he’s apparently had no problem selling every LS9 powered Destino, based on the Karma, that he and his business partners have been able to build. Henrik Fisker is a talented designer so it wouldn’t be too surprising if the Fisker Karma survives the Fisker car company. The Karma could become a latter day Graham-Paige Hollywood or Nate Altman era Avanti II. For their part, Wanxiang might prefer that Fisker stays intact and resumes production. Wanxiang already bought battery maker A123, which supplied the Karma, so they have an interest in keeping the startup automaker alive.

Quantum Aggressor, which features a hybrid drivetrain

Quantum Aggressor, which features a hybrid drivetrain

It’s conceivably possible that if Fisker owned something novel in the way of electric drivetrains or control systems for EVs and hybrids, that might be a way of acquiring the latest EV or hybrid tech on the cheap.  Control systems for hybrids are not inexpensive to develop. Seamlessly integrating gasoline engines and electric motors is not easy. At the recent Toyota Hybrid World Tour, the point was made that software was the most expensive part of the Prius’ development. For pure electric vehicles, motor control, regenerative systems and battery management all require complex software to operate properly. To save money on EV development, Toyota itself has a partnership with Tesla, who provide motors and battery packs for the electric version of the RAV4. Still, I have to wonder if Fisker Automotive owns any EV or hybrid technology that’s worth risking $30 million. That’s because Fisker doesn’t own the technology behind the Karma’s drivetrain.


Quantum Aggressor’s “Q Force” drivetrain, note the similarities to the Karma’s “Q-Drive”

Fisker itself doesn’t own much in the way of EV or hybrid technology. Fisker’s “Q-Drive” serial hybrid drivetrain was developed and exclusively supplied by Fisker partner Quantum Technologies. As a matter of fact, Fisker Automotive came into being as the result of a chance meeting at a Range Rover dealership between Henrik Fisker and Quantum Technologies CEO Alan Niedzwiecki, which led to a lunch for the two men in early 2007. General Motors had just announced the concept for the Chevy Volt, which for the most part operates as a serial hybrid, electric drive plus a range extending on-board gasoline engine to drive a generator to power the electric motors. Quantum had developed a similar drivetrain for the U.S. military. When Henrik Fisker told Niedzwiecki of his plans to design gasoline cars built in China, the Quantum CEO said, “Why don’t you design a car around my drivetrain?” Fisker responded by saying “Let’s start a company!”

Quantum was the exclusive supplier of the Karma’s drivetrain, which uses a GM sourced Ecotec four cylinder gasoline engine to power the car’s generator. A Quantum affiliate also supplied Fisker with the photovoltaic roof on the Karma, that kept the parked car ventilated on sunny days and theoretically could extend range on sunny days by a few miles.

As a result of all of this, it’s unlikely that anyone could put the Karma back into production without the active cooperation of Quantum. It’s also unlikely that anyone is going to risk $30 million to have access to technology that another company owns and controls.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Fisker’s Dept of Energy Loan to be Auctioned Off Today Fri, 11 Oct 2013 19:39:06 +0000 atvm-550x472

The United States Department of Energy will today auction off Fisker Automotive’s loan from the federal government, on which the moribund hybrid car startup defaulted. Last month the department said that it would hold the auction after “exhausting any realistic possibility” that it could recoup all of the $168 million still that Fisker still owes.


Purchasing the debt could be the first step to revive Fisker, which hasn’t built any cars in over a year. The company hasn’t yet gone through bankruptcy, as investors are covering its day to day expenses, but it cannot pay millions of dollars in outstanding bills and it has laid off most of its employees. Company founder designer Henrik Fisker, resigned last March, citing differences of opinion on the company’s future.

Though the federal government is currently undergoing a partial shutdown, the auction will proceed as planned today.Bidders had until Monday of this week to tell the DoE that they planned to make an offer. To qualify to bid, potential buyers had to offer at least $30 million, with a mandatory 10% down payment when placing the bid. That would be the least part of restarting Fisker, which analysts say could cost a half billion dollars or more. Fisker Automotive and the law firm handling its restructuring, Kirkland & Ellis, could not be reached for comment.

The winner of the bid process could be named as soon as next week. The DoE originally extended Fisker a credit line of $528 million under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program in 2009, but the department froze it in mid 2011 after Fisker failed to meet production benchmarks specified in the loan. Of the $528 million allocated, Fisker drew down $192 million before the freeze.

So far this year, at least three possible buyers of Fisker have surfaced. German investment group Fritz Nols AG, according to sources, was one of the companies that submitted a bid to the DoE. Another team that includes Bob Lutz and Chinese auto supplier Wanxiang Group also submitted a bid. That group had previously tried to buy the entire company for $20 million. It’s not clear if that attempt is related to VL Automotive, an enterprise of Lutz’s that’s selling the Destino, a Fisker Karma whose hybrid drivetrain has been replaced by a supercharged LS9 V8 as used in the Corvette ZR1. It’s also been rumored that Henrik Fisker might try to purchase the remains of his namesake company.

Buying the DoE loan would be just the first step in a long process to revive the company. Fisker currently owes suppliers about $80 million, including about $10 million owed to Valmet Automotive, a Finnish company that assembled the Karma under contract. Analysts say that restarting Karma production would cost at least $50 million and reviving the development of the Atlantic, Fisker’s proposed $50,000 sedan, would cost about half a billion dollars.

Any purchaser would also have to settle Fisker’s outstanding debts related to the former General Motors assembly plant in Wilmington, Delaware where Fisker planned to build the Atlantic. The company owes about a million dollars in various local taxes and because it missed a deadline to pay, the company has forfeited a break on future county property taxes.

At the time this was posted, ~3:00 PM EST, there has been no news released about the auction results. The Department of Energy’s public affairs office is still operating during the partial government shutdown, TTAC has contacted that office, and we’ll update this post if they release any information by the close of business today.

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Tales From The Cooler: Instant Karma Depreciation Tue, 28 May 2013 16:02:05 +0000 Fisker Karma Courtesy

During all the turmoil facing hybrid automaker Fisker Automotive recently, from closing its doors to a possible resuscitation led by Bob Lutz, one thing has remained constant: the rapidly collapsing values of the Fisker Karma cars themselves.

It appears that Fisker dealers are starting to dump their new $102,000-plus MSRP Karmas through the auction network. According to auction giant Manheim, 23 Karmas were peddled on their blocks during the week ending May 22. The 15 that were brand new on MSOs sold for an average of $61,200 while 8 extremely low mileage pre-owned examples commanded an average of $57,600. Prior to Fisker’s announced closure, used Karmas were bringing an average of $79,000.

The independent dealers and wholesalers who purchased the vehicles thinking that a 40% discount off MSRP means they can turn them for a profit better hurry: Manheim projects Fisker wholesale values will drop to $28,400 by next May.

I have never considered buying a Karma but at that price, and if I have confidence in whatever dealer body or service arrangements are available next year, I might think about it. How about you?

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Fisker Taken Out Behind Capitol Hill’s Woodshed Thu, 25 Apr 2013 11:00:47 +0000

Congressional Republicans blasted current and former Fisker executives, as well as an official from the Department of Energy over missed milestones for their Department of Energy loans, which saw the company repeatedly fail to meet obligations while continuing to receive taxpayer money.

Fisker has had a trouble history as an automaker, despite its namesake’s success in penning iconic designs for the likes of BMW and Aston Martin. California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa compared Fisker to the likes of Preston Tucker, John DeLorean and Malcolm Bricklin, blunty telling Fisker “Quite frankly, innovative cars have a history of failing.”

But for many Republicans, their ire was aimed less at Fisker than at the Department of Energy. Sub-committee chairman Jim Jordan noted that

“Taxpayers have effectively subsidized luxury novelty vehicles for the likes of Justin Bieber, Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore,” Jordan said. “Fisker was not a well thought out startup. It had a fancy design and big names behind it, but no real business acumen. It was never destined to be a company of job creators, rather skillful rent-seekers.”

Fisker’s funding was cut off in 2011, after Fisker had received $192 million of a $529 million loan had been granted. A judge ruled that Fisker had failed to reach production and sales milestones associated with the loan. While the Karma was built in Finland, the next product, the smaller Atlantic sedan, was ostensibly going to be built in a former GM plant in Delaware. But supplier issues (including the bankruptcy of A123 Systems, their battery supplier) along with Fisker’s various recalls and mechanical problems with the Karma, helped derail Fisker’s plans.

Currently, Fisker’s prospects look quite bleak. Bankruptcy is predicted by a number of industry observers, and Fisker COO Bernard Koehler stated “whether the company will find new investors or whether the company may be obliged to seek bankruptcy protection.”

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DoE Gets Some Money Out Of Fisker Tue, 23 Apr 2013 14:44:15 +0000

The U.S. government has managed to recover $21 million in cash from Fisker, funds that will go towards repaying the nearly $200 million its received from the government in the form of loans.

Automotive News reports that the funds came from sales and private investment, rather than unused loan money. Reports say that Fisker’s emergency fund was tapped to obtain the cash. Fisker’s first payment for the loan was due on Monday, though the Department of Energy didn’t say whether the funds helped satisfy that requirement.

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VC Firms Expected To Take A Billion Dollar Bath On Fisker Thu, 18 Apr 2013 12:30:13 +0000

PrivCo, a private corporate intelligence firm, has published a 20+ page dossier on Fisker’s seemingly strong ability to fundraise for itself, while failing to do a good job of actually creating cars. With Fisker teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, the results are staggering; with just under 2000 units sold, Fisker burned through an estimated $1.3 billion in venture capital, taxpayer-funded loans and private investor funds.

According to PrivCo’s estimates, that amounts to $660,000 per Karma sold. PrivCo has charted out an extensive, detailed timeline of Fisker’s operations, and highlighted key information pertaining to corporate developments, government loan proceedings and the various ways that Fisker breached their agreements with the government. What materializes is an amazing picture of how Fisker was able to raise enormous sums of money merely on the promise of providing a “green” car for the very wealthy few, without every creating anything tangible or ready for the marketplace. According to the firm, the government

“…applied negligent underwriting standards in granting the DOE Loan and Credit Agreement to Fisker, which was by any commercial standard clearly a financially unqualified borrower for the loan.”

You can view the full report at PrivCo’s website.

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Issa Wants House To Investigate Fisker Loan Thu, 11 Apr 2013 11:00:03 +0000

California Congressman Darrell Issa wants to investigate the Department of Energy’s loans to nearly-bankrupt Fisker after the company laid off most of its employees and retained bankruptcy lawyers last week.

According to Bloomberg, Issa is concerned that Fisker’s loan may have prevented other, more deserving companies from getting the money, stating

“[Fisker] is a design company, not a manufacturing company…It was destined to fail from the beginning. The greater concern is, does this affect more viable companies, whether they received loans or not.”

Bloomberg notes that Aptera, an EV start-up that Issa backed in the past (and was based in his congressional district) was denied a DoE loan under the Advanced TechnologyVehicles Manufacturing Program – the same program that Fisker got its funding from. Fisker’s $529 million loan was meant to convert a former GM factory in Delaware into a Fisker production center. But Fisker never produced a single car there, instead relying on Finland’s Valmet to produce the Fisker Karma sedan under contract.

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Fisker: How To Light $529 Million On Fire Fri, 05 Apr 2013 16:55:28 +0000

Fisker has laid off nearly all of its rank and file employees. Reuters reports that 160 people were out of a job as of today, while 53 senior employees will stay on, apparently to help find a buyer for Fisker’s assets. Fisker is also hoping to re-negotiate a loan payment to the Department of Energy, due on April 22nd.

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Geely No Longer Interested In Fisker Mon, 18 Mar 2013 14:39:09 +0000

Fisker is still likely to be rescued by a Chinese savior, but it won’t be Geely. Reuters is reporting that Fisker’s outstanding obligations to the Department of Energy have scared off the Chinese auto maker, leaving Dongfeng as the sole suitor for the beleagured EV maker.

According to Reuters, the strings attached to the $529 million loan – such as commiting to restoring jobs and production capacity at American plants on a set timetable – were too daunting for Geely.

“Those obligations are too complicated to handle and seem too risky,” one of the sources said. “The plan’s footprint was too big. It would take a long, long time to fill up the plant with products and restore employment there.”

Originally, Geely was said to be eyeing Fisker’s Delaware plant as a means of producing Volvos in the United States. As of now, Dongfeng is said to be the sole bidder in the final round. Meanwhile, Fisker has yet to produce any cars since July of 2012, and is looking for funding to help produce the smaller Atlantic plug-in sedan.

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Henrik Fisker Pulls The Chute Wed, 13 Mar 2013 17:27:12 +0000

Henrik Fisker has resigned from the automobile firm that bears his name, as the company’s future looks to be headed towards an inexorable buyout by a Chinese auto maker.

Fisker sent an email to Automotive News outlining his decision to resign

“The main reasons for his resignation are several major disagreements that Henrik Fisker has with the Fisker Automotive executive management on the business strategy.”

Comments by Fisker CEO Tony Posawatz seemed to confirmed that Fisker was negotiating with a Chinese partner, likely Geely, to take over the auto maker. Fisker is looking for additional funding to help launch their second model, the smaller Atlantic sedan.

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Fisker May Follow A123 To China Fri, 15 Feb 2013 17:23:16 +0000

Reports by Bloomberg suggest that Fisker could sell up to an 85 percent stake to Chinese automaker Dongfeng. The automaker apparently bid $350 million for the beleaguered plug-in car maker, according to sources close to the company.

With a $200 million Department of Energy loan still outstanding, and a possible cash crunch looming mid-year, Fisker has been looking for a buyer. Company spokesman Roger Ormisher told Bloomberg

“The company has received detailed proposals from multiple parties in different continents, which are now being evaluated by the company and its advisers,”

If Fisker were to be sold to Dongfeng, the possibility exists that production of its vehicles would move from Finland to China, without the ex-GM factory in Delaware having ever produced any cars. Fisker’s battery supplier, A123 Systems, declared bankruptcy in 2012, and was sold to a Chinese firm.

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A123 Wants to Void Contract with Fisker, Fisker Says That Would Disrupt “Ongoing Business” Thu, 01 Nov 2012 17:08:51 +0000 A123 Battery Pack for Fisker Karma Image courtesy of A123. Not exactly your standard AA cells.

While Johnson Controls and China’s Wanxiang Group have competing bids to acquire the assets of advanced battery maker and Fisker supplier A123, a more serious battle is occurring in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware between the startup automaker and what is arguably its most important vendor. A123 wants the bankruptcy judge to void its contracts including those for supplying batteries to Fisker. That could stop production of Fisker’s only car, the Karma. A123 says that the existing contract with Fisker is burdensome and that the amount they are getting paid for those batteries is below market value. Fisker attorneys, in a filing with the court, have challenged A123 and said that “Fisker’s ongoing business and operations will be severely disrupted and harmed” if the court voids the contract. The pas de deux between the two companies may be spinning into a danse macabre. Twenty five percent of A123′s revenue comes from its deal with Fisker, while A123 is Fisker’s sole supplier of the lithium-ion batteries it needs to make the extended range EV Karma. There is no way that Fisker can find a supplier who can engineer a replacement battery pack quickly enough to keep the Karma in production. Electric vehicle batteries are not like AA cells that you can pick up at the corner store. While there are standard lithium ion battery formats, the Tesla Roadster is the only high profile EV that uses standard format Li-Ion cells. All other electric cars, including Fiskers, use cells specifically designed and engineered for them. The Fisker 20 kWh battery pack manufactured by A123 is made up of 315 individual Li-ion cells.

A123 image

Of course this is about money. One reason why A123 is in bankruptcy court in the first place is because of the financial hit the company took due to a recall of defective batteries supplied to Fisker. Since the companies are interdependent, my guess is that if the judge does throw out the contract, a new one will be cut, either between A123 and Fisker, or between whichever company, Johnson or Wanxiang, ends up owning A123′s battery factories.

With such an important vendor in bankruptcy court, Fisker is between a rock and something that would peg a Rockwell tester.

According to Fisker attorneys, “ the rejection of the Fisker contract represents an immediate threat of significant disruption and harm to Fisker’s business, with a corresponding negative impact on Fisker’s lenders, suppliers, customers and investors.” One of those lenders, of course, is the United States Treasury, American taxpayers having loaned Fisker almost 200 million dollars.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading– RJS


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Fisker Flambe At New Jersey Port Damages 16 Karmas Wed, 31 Oct 2012 16:50:47 +0000

16 Fisker Karmas waiting at a New Jersey port caught fire, with all 16 cars burning to the ground.

Photos of the aftermath were obtained by Jalopnik, which also obtained this statement from Fisker

“It was reported today that several Fisker Karmas were damaged by fire at the Port of Newark after being submerged in sea water during Superstorm Sandy.  We can report that there were no injuries and none of the cars were being charged at the time.

We have confidence in the Fisker Karma and safety is our primary concern.  While we intend to find the cause as quickly as possible, storm damage has restricted access to the port. 

We will issue a further statement once the root cause has been determined.”

Anyone with a science background (or anyone that got better than a C in Chemistry…): how do the vehicles go up in flames after being submerged in sea water. Anyone? Buller?

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Fisker Asks For More Time With A123 Mon, 29 Oct 2012 13:00:29 +0000

Fisker is asking a bankruptcy judge to delay an asset sale related to beleaguered battery maker A123 Systems.

Bloomberg reports that Fisker filed an “emergency motion” to challenge the proceedings. A proposed asset sale would see Johnson Controls Inc. purchase the automotive assets of A123, including plants in Michigan and China, with JCI also looking to acquire further assets. According to court papers filed in Delaware , Gregg Galardi, an attorney for Fisker claimed that

“A hurried sale process will be damaging to the estates and deprive creditors of value that may be realized through higher and better offers…The best interests of the estates, however, are not well served through a hasty and unfair sale process designed to ensure that JCI is the ultimate purchaser.”

Other parties, including the University of Montreal and Massachusetts Clean Energy Technology Center (which was created under 2008′s Green Jobs Act and loaned money to Fisker) filed separate objections to the asset sale.

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Fisker Says Latest Fire Not Caused By Battery, Engine or Exhaust – Which Leaves … Tue, 14 Aug 2012 11:38:42 +0000 After reports of a Fisker Karma going up in flames in Woodside, California last Friday, we published comments that EV expert Jon Bereisa had made about an earlier Karma fire. Bereisa had said that the tight packaging of the engine and putting the entire exhaust system under the hood and exiting out behind the front wheels compromised the heat shielding. Putting that together with photos and video of the latest fire, that showed the firefighters concentrating their water spray behind the front wheel, I speculated that Bereisa’s criticism was warranted. Now Fisker has issued a statement, specifically absolving the engine compartment and  “unique exhaust routing” of involvement in the Woodside fire:

“Evidence revealed thus far supports the fact that the ignition source was not the Lithium-ion battery pack, new technology components or unique exhaust routing. The area of origin for the fire was determined to be outside the engine compartment.  There was no damage to the passenger compartment and there were no injuries. Continued investigative efforts will be primarily focused within the specific area of origin, located forward of the driver’s side front tire.”‘

Well, if the exhaust system wasn’t the source of the fire and if it started outside the engine compartment and instead the origin was “forward of the driver’s side front tire”, what does that leave? Well, forward of the driver’s side front tire in most cars is the wiring for the left headlamp cluster. Headlights draw enough current requiring relays, not simple switches, to be used for electrical safety, but their wiring is proven and reliable. Looking at published photos of the fire’s aftermath, though, in the Karma’s right front there’s also some kind of heat exchanger that I believe, from its size, is the turbo’s intercooler. There also appears to be a sensor on the heat exchanger with some wires hanging out of it though that may not be the sensor’s original location.

Heat exchangers do, after all, get hot but I don’t think there’s any record of hot intercoolers or their leaking coolant causing fires. BMW, though, has issued a series of recalls for MINIs, BMWs and Rolls-Royces over fire hazards caused by electronics associated with those cars’ turbochargers. The burned Karma’s owner, Rusty Burger, told Eric Wessof of GreenTechMedia, who just happened by, that the car was smoking as he pulled into the parking lot. That sounds like a wiring malfunction.

Fire is a primal fear to most people. Electricity probably comes in close behind for a good deal of the population as well. The attention given to the as yet statistically insignificant fires involving electric cars is ample evidence of those fears. Part of the challenge that EV makers face is assuring people that all the volts and amps that power their cars are harnessed safely. They also have to educate emergency first responders on how to work around EVs’ high voltage systems. As probable as it is, it would be ironic if one of the Karma’s low voltage systems ended up being the cause. In part because of $190 million in US government backed loans that Fisker has already borrowed, the Karma has its critics. Those critics might also say that if Fisker can’t design low voltage systems to operate safely, it doesn’t bode well for the reliability of its electric drive.

I could be wrong, and the Karma was a victim of arson.

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Fisker Douses The Flames Mon, 13 Aug 2012 07:52:48 +0000

Fisker responded  quickly to the fire that left a Fisker Karma  a clump of smoldering sheet metal last Friday.  Fisker issued a statement saying that Fisker engineers, working with independent investigators from Pacific Rim Investigative Group, have started examining the Karma. What they found so far does not support speculation put forth on major car blogs:

“Evidence revealed thus far supports the fact that the ignition source was not the Lithium-ion battery pack, new technology components or unique exhaust routing. The area of origin for the fire was determined to be outside the engine compartment.”

The investigation now will focus on where the fire did start, namely the area “located forward of the driver’s side front tire.”

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Fisker Karma Fire Investigation Continues, EV Expert Blames Engine Packaging & Heat – Not Batteries Fri, 11 May 2012 19:34:12 +0000 Fisker Karma - Fisker Motors Photo

The investigation into a Texas house fire that apparently started in a 2 month old Fisker Karma continues, with an EV expert weighing in with his opinion that the packaging of the combustion engine that drives the Fisker’s generator was likely the cause of the fire, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration saying it is looking into the incident, and the car’s owner and his attorneys firing back after Fisker initially implied there might be fraud or foul play.

Automotive News asked Jon Bereisa, CEO of Auto Lectrification, an EV consulting firm, for his opinion. Bereisa is perhaps singularly qualified to discuss electric vehicles, having been both the chief engineer of General Motors’ EV1 project and also the systems architect for the Chevy Volt. Bereisa told AN that based on a test drive and his examination of the Karma’s layout, he thinks the cramped engine compartment and excess heat most likely caused the fire, not the car’s battery pack.

“That engine is shoehorned into that bay, because they had to use a larger engine, because it was too heavy a car. As a result, there’s no room for exhaust routing and heat shielding to route the heat away… [the Karma is] using the hell out of that motor-generator.”

Bereisa also noted how tightly packed the exhaust system is. In those circumstances, a fuel, oil or even coolant (glycol is flammable) leak could ignite from heat or a hot surface. The consultant also pointed to the burned Karma’s owner’s remarks. Jeremy Gutierrez, the owner of the burned Fisker Karma, and CEO of iEnergy, an electrical power marketer, said that he smelled burning rubber just before the fire broke out.

Bereisa pointed out that, “You don’t smell rubber with batteries, but you will if it’s something on the engine.” Bereisa also said that since the car had just been driven on errands, the battery pack was likely drained and no longer contained enough energy or waste heat hot enough to ignite. “If the [battery] pack were to burn down the car, you would see where it started and reached the [battery] case… There’s more odds that it’s a conventional, heat-related problem in packaging and heat-related leaks.”

Fisker is agreeing that the battery pack, which uses cells manufactured by A123, wasn’t the cause of the fire, though it has sent a team of engineers to pore over the charred Karma’s hulk. That team is beginning to annoy Gutierrez, already a bit miffed that Fisker cast aspersions on his character, raising the possibility of “fraud or malicious intent”.

Gutierrez is so annoyed that he’s gotten his attorneys involved:

Mr. Guitterez fully accommodated the precise and somewhat peculiar demands of Fisker Automotive, who sent their self-proclaimed SWAT Team of engineers and inspectors (that included their own forensic cause and origin investigator) to the Guitterez home within 24 hours of the fire. They descended upon the Guitterez home in alarming numbers and immediately demanded a 24-hour lockdown of his home, including the remains of the Fisker Karma vehicle. They also cordoned off portions of the Guitterez home with non-transparent tarps to block the view from the public. Fisker even had access to eyewitnesses, who were interviewed by Fisker investigators and those investigators were shown video footage of the Fisker vehicle on fire before any other part of the garage.

Guitterez’s lawyers have demanded that Fisker to end its probe “immediately.”

For its part, Fisker still considers the cause of the fire as “yet to be ascertained.” A company spokesman said,

“There are myriad combustible materials that could be in the garage, in the wheel arch, or picked up on the roadside. They think the source is around the Karma, but they have not determined any cause yet. We have investigative teams, three insurance companies and the local fire chief all with their opinions. There are some question marks.”

When asked about Bereisa’s theories, the spokesman said, “The Karma has been through all regulatory and certification checks.”

Meanwhile, though Robert Baker, the chief fire inspector for Fort Bend County, Texas, continues to say that the Karma started the fire, his investigation is still incomplete, and NHTSA is started to show some interest.

“Yes, the Karma was the origin of the fire,” Baker said. “But what exactly caused that we don’t know at this time.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement that it “is aware of the incident and in contact with local authorities. The agency will continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate action as warranted,” though no formal NHTSA probe has been launched.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS


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Fisker Atlantic Emerges Out Of The Vapor(ware) Mon, 02 Apr 2012 00:15:28 +0000

Even though Fisker is enduring the kind of misfortune that Job would be hard pressed to shrug off, the newer, smaller Fisker, dubbed the Atlantic, got an early reveal thanks to a Czech auto site that leaked these early images.

Looking like a shrunken Fisker Karma, the Atlantic should have an appropriately reduced pricetag – around $50,000 if rumors are accurate. A BMW turbocharged 4-cylinder will apparently act as a range extender. We’ll have more coverage starting April 4th once the car is revealed at the New York Auto Show.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 2013 Fisker Atlantic. Photo courtesy 2013 Fisker Atlantic. Photo courtesy ]]> 15
A123 Systems Recalling Battery Packs Used In Fisker Karma, Other Cars Mon, 26 Mar 2012 16:35:04 +0000

A123 Systems will be replacing battery packs built at their Livonia, Michigan plant that contain prismatic cells – the same type used in the Fisker Karma. The recall is estimated to cost A123 about $55 million. The defective batteries are linked to the recent problems experienced by Fisker Karma owners, according to A123 CEO David Vieau.

The Karma is the single largest customer of prismatic cells from the Livonia plant. Green Car Reports claims that other cells built in China for different applications are not affected. John Voelcker of Green Car Reports describes the problem as

“…defect [that] was traced to a miscalibration in an automatic welding machine at the plant, which resulted in a misaligned component was not detected visually.

When the cells were compressed, interference could be created although the cells functioned properly at first. A123 says the defect does not cause a safety issue, and has had no reports of any safety concerns in any of the products.”

Vieau said that A123 will have to adjust their fundraising strategy to pay for the recall, but was forthcoming about accepting responsibility for the matter. “We make no excuses and we accept full responsibility for this action,” he said.

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Consumer Reports Finally Gets To Drive Their Fisker Karma Tue, 20 Mar 2012 13:30:29 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Consumer Reports has their Fisker Karma back from the dealership, and has finally been able to get their driving impressions. The folks at CR are apparently being cautious with their new six-figure sports sedan, for fear that another breakdown could happen far from home, rather than within their compound.

CR’s chief complaints center around the car’s mass; the big, heavy battery pack allegedy makes for a cramped rear seat, while also hurting the Karma’s performance. The staff are also hesitant to take the car on any sort of long trips, since any breakdowns would leave them stranded in an area with poor cell phone coverage. CR’s claim that “It is expected we’ll be revisiting the dealership soon. We’ve had cars in the past that have been troublesome, but never anything like this,” should tell you everything you need to know.

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Consumer Reports Fisker Karma Gets New Battery Pack Wed, 14 Mar 2012 18:43:52 +0000


The Fisker Karma that broke down shortly after Consumer Reports took delivery is up and running again, thanks to a new battery pack replaced under warranty.

While calibrating the Karma’s speedometer (a routine procedure at CR), the car triggered a warning light. After coming to a stop, the car shifted would only shift from Neutral to Park and would not go into gear. The problem disappeared after an hour, only to reappear, necessitating a flatbed truck and a trip to the dealer.

As for the fix? Here’s CR’s explanation.

The dealer’s repair invoice says the problem was “duplicated repeatedly.” A “fault was found in the battery and inverter cable. Both were replaced as a unit.” In other words, we now have a brand-new lithium-ion drive battery pack provided under warranty, though likely costing as much as a small, fuel-efficient car. Throughout the process, the dealer’s service department kept us up to date on the progress. And they were courteous enough to wash the car and charge it up before shipping the luxury sedan back to us.

Yes, emphasis is mine there. It’s nice that Fisker replaced the battery in a hassle-free manner but we can only wonder what went so wrong that such a drastic replacement was necessary.

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Consumer Reports Fisker Karma Breaks In Driveway Thu, 08 Mar 2012 20:56:07 +0000
Consumer Reports recently bought a Fisker Karma, which ended up breaking down in the driveway of their vehicle testing facility.

The car didn’t quite “brick”, but it was rendered immobile, and had to be towed away on a flatbed. We’ll be keeping an eye on what transpires. Maybe it will re-start once Fisker’s DoE loans get re-instated.

According to CR, the Karma lasted a mere 180 miles before dying. CR says that they will continue testing the car and that the defect won’t affect reliability scores, which are based on owner feedback.

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Fisker Names Ex-Chrysler Boss Tom Lasorda As New CEO Tue, 28 Feb 2012 18:06:37 +0000

Today’s a big day for beleaguered automaker Fisker. The company announced that former Chrysler CEO Tom Lasorda would be joining the company as its new CEO, after joining Fisker’s board in December.

Company founder Henrik Fisker’s role remains unclear following the announcement, but Lasorda helped run Chrysler during the tumultuous time when it was owned by Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm. Chrysler eventually declared bankruptcy under the firm’s ownership in 2009.

Fisker is now facing the prospect of having $336 million in loans from the Department of Energy frozen, and is now courting private equity firms to help raise capital. Fisker is set to debut their next model, the Surf station wagon, at the 2012 Paris Auto Show in September.

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Fisker Announces Layoffs As Government Loans Frozen Tue, 07 Feb 2012 20:55:04 +0000

Fisker Automotive has laid off a total of 66 people, including 20 at a former GM plant in Delaware, and another 40 contractors in California. The layoffs come as Fisker attempts to re-negotiate loans from the Department of Energy that were contingent on Fisker meeting sales targets for its Karma sedan, which Fisker failed to do.

While the DOE loaned Fisker $509 million, Fisker has only $193 million so far. The money was earmarked to help engineer a new vehicle, dubbed the Nina. Fisker had hoped to employ 2,000 people at the Delaware plant. The Karma has been hampered by a series of delays and false starts, leading to speculation that the project was little more than vaporware. Fisker is also pursuing private equity financing in lieu of government loans.

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OMG! Brian Ross Reveals Fisker Fraud On Massive Scale! World Aghast Sat, 22 Oct 2011 15:03:53 +0000

After dogged reporting, ABC’s investigative unit, headed by Brian Ross of dubious Toyota fame, found out the shocking news that Fisker received a $529 million federal, and now the unpatricotic SOB has the Fisker Karmas built in Finland. ABC is shocked, I say shocked:

“With the approval of the Obama administration, an electric car company that received a $529 million federal government loan guarantee is assembling its first line of cars in Finland, saying it could not find a facility in the United States capable of doing the work.”

Isn’t that downright disgusting? Nevertheless, Fisker and the U.S. Department of Energy are unrepentant, claiming that the money was spent in America, developing the car.

Fisker also says the company was unable to find an automaker in the U.S. that is willing to make a small run – 8,000 a year – of the $96,000 plug-in hybrid Karma. The Karma is built by Valmet, a Finnish company that specialized in small runs.

Fisker’s second vehicle, the Nina, will be built at a former General Motors plant in Wilmington, Delaware.

Even the Freep, usually on the side of the American worker and apple pie, could not help but snicker:

“In its report, tagged an exclusive, ABC News linked the loan to the overseas production, raising questions at a time when House Republicans are investigating whether another Energy Department loan to solar company Solyndra, now in bankruptcy, was awarded inappropriately.”

“But the Energy Department noted that it was known before the loan was even awarded to Fisker that the company’s first run would be made overseas, though the funding would support jobs in the U.S. For instance, the Wall Street Journal noted the Finnish production contract when it wrote about the loan at the time it was announced in September 2009.”

And just in case ABC doesn’t have old copies of the WSJ sitting aroud, TTAC revealed on September 1, 2009 the shocking news that “Fisker has contracted with Valmet to produce its luxury EV Karma, with production to start early next year.“ And we were wrong. It didn’t start in early 2011. Not by a long shot. Now here is a scandal worthy of Brian Ross. He blew it.

(Hat tip to an anoymous source in Salo, Finland)

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