Rare Rides: A Tale of Fisker Karma (Part III)

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

While Part I of the Fisker Karma story introduced the car and its tech, and Part II reviewed the interesting combination of features and design mandates which accompanied the advanced tech, Part III is the one you’ve really been waiting for.

It’s all flames, floods, and failures.

After production and design delays, the Karma factory in Finland began producing cars in July of 2011. As previously mentioned, the first two consumer deliveries took place that same month. Throughout the remainder of 2011 and most of 2012, production continued without issue, but that’s not to say there were not other issues afoot. There were plenty.

In December 2011, Fisker recalled all cars built between July and early November that year, citing a coolant leak that could cause a battery fire. Some hose clamps were positioned improperly, meaning coolant could rain down on the battery inside the car and cause a campfire. Another recall occurred in August of 2012, as 2,400 Karmas were returned to fix a cooling fan issue (pretty much every single vehicle sold in the U.S. market).

Before the recalls, there were fires reported in parked Karmas in May and August 2012. In those cases, the cars caught fire when they were not in use. And that’s before Sandy came along in October of that same year.

That’s Hurricane Sandy. Karma units had been offloaded at the port in Newark, New Jersey shortly before Sandy struck. Flooding at the port took out 346 Karmas. Sixteen of them got so soaked with water that they caught fire, and the other 330 were flooded into scrap metal.

By then the house of cards was folding. Fisker relied on a single battery provider for its operation: A123 systems. The recalls were all for components manufactured by A123, which was not kind to the company’s balance sheet. As A123 filed for bankruptcy in October 2012, it ensured Karma production ground to a halt the very next month.

There was no more money to pay workers by March of 2013, and Fisker Automotive itself fell into bankruptcy in November of that year. The U.S. Department of Energy sold the debt, which would end up in the hands of Chinese automotive company Wanxiang.

From there, history split a couple of different ways. Wanxiang started a new car company called Karma Automotive, beginning production of a revised version of the Karma called the Revero in 2016. It’s still in production presently.

Founder of Fisker Automotive, Henrik Fisker, went his own way after the bankruptcy, starting Fisker Inc. in 2016. The company got to keep the original Fisker brand logo, and is currently developing two new models. One is a sedan called the EMotion, the other is an autonomous shuttle known as Orbit.

The particular Karma we’ve been eyeing over these past three installments is located in Philadelphia. With a rebuilt title (look at the panel alignments on the trunk), it’s asking $45,000.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 13 comments
  • Shortest Circuit Shortest Circuit on Jun 18, 2018

    The lego model of this has tighter panel gaps.

  • Voyager Voyager on Jun 19, 2018

    So much bad luck for Fisker. Hope he'll have better... well, Karma with his latest EV venture. Has anybody heard of that car Fisker introduced at the 2017 CES? Any test reviews?

  • Daniel J Until we get a significant charging infrastructure and change times get under 10 minutes, yes
  • Mike I own 2 gm 6.2 vehicles. They are great. I do buy alot of gas. However, I would not want the same vehicles if they were v6's. Jusy my opinion. I believe that manufacturers need to offer engine options for the customer. The market will speak on what the consumer wants.For example, I dont see the issue with offering a silverado with 4cyl , 6 cyl, 5.3 v8, 6.2 v8, diesel options. The manufacturer will charge accordingly.
  • Mike What percentage of people who buy plug in hybrids stop charging them daily after a few months? Also, what portion of the phev sales are due to the fact that the incentives made them a cheaper lease than the gas only model? (Im thinking of the wrangler 4xe). I wish there was a way to dig into the numbers deeper.
  • CEastwood If it wasn't for the senior property tax freeze in NJ I might complain about this raising my property taxes since most of that tax goes to the schools . I'm not totally against EVs , but since I don't drive huge miles and like to maintain my own vehicles they are not practical especially since I keep a new vehicle long term and nobody has of yet run into the cost of replacing the battery on an EV .
  • Aquaticko Problem with PHEV is that, like EVs, they still require a behavioral change over ICE/HEV cars to be worth their expense and abate emissions (whichever is your goal). Studies in the past have shown that a lot of PHEV drivers don't regularly plug-in, meaning they're just less-efficient HEVs.I'm left to wonder how big a battery a regular HEV could have without needing to be a PHEV.