By on March 14, 2012


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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25 Comments on “Consumer Reports Fisker Karma Gets New Battery Pack...”

  • avatar

    This doesn’t reflect well for A123 Systems. Fisker a few months ago had “potential safety issue” with the A123 batteries as well. Seems to be a lot of problems compressed into a short period of time.

    If I was GM, which is planning on using A123 batteries in their upcoming Spark EV, I would insure these issues don’t manifest itself on that car. I many ways, the Fisker Karma may serve as a good test bed for the Spark EV. Or perhaps they should use LG Chem’s batteries, which they already do in the Volt, in their Spark EV as well.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    I’m not sure it really was such a drastic step. Chances are there’s a failed cell or component, but the entire pack probably isn’t completely shot. It’s probably cheaper and more efficient overall to simply swap the pack with a new one and send the complete failed pack back to the manufacturer to be diagnosed and repaired.

    For another somewhat crazy example of how the economics work out on these things, look at Apple’s battery replacement program on the iPad. While the program is described as a battery replacement, they actually send the customer a whole new iPad, then separately they replace the pack in the returned pool and put it back into the replacement pool rotation.

    In this case you can’t replace the whole car like that, but you can take out the whole pack and send it back for repair. The next person who has a battery failure will probably get the pack from CR’s car after it’s been repaired.

    • 0 avatar

      This is correct. The factory doesn’t want a local “mechanic” getting out his soldering iron and fixing some connection problem involving the battery and inverter. Often, the engineering department wants to evaluate the failure for future production changes. “No user serviceable parts inside”.
      When your LCD TV breaks, the local technician doesn’t fix the panel or the circuit board. He swaps the sub-assembly out. Often the diagnosis involves very sophisticated equipment not available to the field technician.

  • avatar

    CR purchases cars anonymously to avoid special treatment. I assume that with this Fisker their cover was blown.

    • 0 avatar

      “Cover Blown”

      + 1

      They just haven’t sold that many of these cars, and it wouldn’t take a Rocket Scientist’s pet goldfish to figure out the car towed from CR headquarters testing ground was the car in all the press releases.

      There was a phone call made to the Dealership that said, “Get that thing fixed and pronto and don’t worry about the cost or the underlying reason”.

      That’s what you or I would have done. The guys at HQ can tear down the pack and the controllers and figure out the underlying cause. Getting the thing out of the news is the most important thing.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with Lokki. Even if it wasn’t a CR car, the dealer can’t waste time decrypting the battery pack, particularly on a brand new car. Replacement was the only option.

      The engineers will see the bad pack and make improvements, presumably.

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t be surprised if this level of service would be given to any customer. This is, after all, a $100k+ car, and as others have said, replacing the battery pack and sending the defective one back for analysis is what you would expect if this type of early failure occurred for any product.

      At one point, Apple would replace iPhones with broken screens even when they were the customer’s fault, so that they could analyze real-world problems. This could be the same sort of situation.


    • 0 avatar

      Why so uncleverly revealing itself in such a way, CR eliminated the possibility of evaluating Fisker’s longer-term customer support process.

      Pretty stupid that they didn’t sit on this information for awhile.

  • avatar

    They threw in a car wash and a fillup, too, after replacing a battery pack worth 5 figures? What a great dealer!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    you see? no big deal, they should have used Energizer or Duracell and they would have been no issues!

  • avatar

    People are concerned with battery longevity… what about ” shortevity”? Yes it may only be a cell. but like with my lead-acid battery or laptop battery, it will require replacement of the entire battery. Only here the batter cost $20K or something like that.

    how come golf carts, mars rovers, Lea, volt etc. don’t have battery problems and these guys have problems all the time? thsi may not be an EV problem, more a problem related to this car manufacturer.

    Same way the 1970’s diesel problems were not diesel problems, but GM problems.

    • 0 avatar

      Golf carts are powered by lead acid batteries.

      The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity were/are powered by solar panels. The Curiosity rover (en route) is powered by a small nuclear power source (RTG).

      The Leaf, Volt, and Tesla cars each have a lithium ion battery pack. Battery pack design and charger design is a difficult engineering art. So I’d agree that if Fisker’s batteries begin showing a lot of problems, it’s a Fisker problem and not necessarily a ‘lithium ion’ problem.

      • 0 avatar

        my point here is, that all those battery vehicles don’t just break down so soon, despite them all being more or less complicated.

        I’m sure the Mars rovers also have a battery for buffer.

      • 0 avatar

        “The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity were/are powered by solar panels. The Curiosity rover (en route) is powered by a small nuclear power source (RTG).”

        I bet that small nuclear power source would eliminate range anxiety. Although Id probably want a real temp gauge as opposed to the normal light.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually Spirit and Opportunity are powered by lithium-ion batteries, recharged by 140W output solar panels.. The batteries were developed by JPL and are kept temp stable in a self heating insulated box.. if the solar power drops then the batteries will freeze overnight and die.

        Satellites in orbit routinely carry lithium-ion batteries, good for 15 years or longer.

    • 0 avatar

      Golf Carts have relatively uncomplicated, heavy, short-range deep-cycle lead acids. And stuff goes wrong with lead-acids all the time. If you charge the whole pack on-board till it’s 100% full, one or two cells are bound to overcharge and spring leaks. If the leaking is bad enough, the battery should be replaced.

      Of course, each 6v cell only costs $125 or so, and there are only six of them on a standard Golf Cart, motivating a puny 5kW motor. To get the range and performance of the Fisker, you’d probably need over a ton of deep-cycle lead-acids… which wouldn’t fit inside the Fisker.

      Oh… and there’s also the issue of limited duty cycles. In daily use at full depletion, a lead-acid deep-cycle for an EV would only last two years or so…

  • avatar

    It’s a good thing Tesla and Fisker had nothing to do with the space program

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, Tesla is run by Elon Musk, who also runs SpaceX, a real company building real rockets that have already orbited spacecraft, and are about to launch one toward the International Space Station.

      • 0 avatar

        “…launch one TOWARD the International Space Station.” I love the way that reads — like they’re attacking it with a missile but their aim’s not so good.

  • avatar

    Would Tesla have replaced the battery or blamed the customer for not charging it properly? Has Tesla ever replaced a battery for free under warranty:?
    I’m not making an argument, I really don’t know the answer and I think it’s a good question to ask, especially if you’re a Tesla customer.

  • avatar

    all said its still a beautiful car!
    And with BMW`s and such selling for over 100 grand I can see a niche for it.

  • avatar
    Mr Nosy

    As if this were the first boutique,100k+ automobile to break down while barely off the lot.How many other vehicles in this price range have emulated this behavior whilst employing a long-established technology of the V8-12 variety,with maybe only a turbo or supercharger to tech it up? Still,I’m left to wonder how many owners will manage to rack up the miles,or make a point of trying,on this sled. What with most of this demographic already juggling the burdens of both convertible(For trips up the coast.),and luxury SUV ownership(Custody of the kids on weekends.),durability issues might not ever be properly addressed.These people are busy enough as it is,and now to burden them further…I think a properly vetted,volunteer program should be in place to properly evaluate this new E-bucket,under real world conditions.Unlimited AAA towing included,of course.

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