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Fisker Karma: TopSpeed Test Drive

When we reviewed the Fisker Karma back in November 2012, we were pretty sure that this was a model with a promising future in the U.S. market. Apparently, we were wrong. It looks like Fisker hasn’t produced any vehicles in more than six months, and the problems do not stop here.

Apparently the company is still having big problems with cash, which really took off when the U.S. Department of Energy decided to freeze about $300 million of the $529 million loan Fisker Fisker was supposed to receive. Our contact at Fisker confirmed through several news outlets that the electric vehicle manufacturer has hired a consultant to oversee day-to-day operations in an attempt to conserve cash. The other detail to emerge is that sources close to the company are reporting that Fisker is seeking bidders to enter a partnership with or a possible acquisition.

Fisker officials confirmed that the company already attracted interest from companies like the Swedish vendor Valmet and a few others companies in China that may be interested in either being strategic partners or in the technology developed by Fisker. However, problems for Fisker do not stop here: recently battery supplier A123 Systems Inc. filed for bankruptcy and Fisker remains without the most important part of Karma model. Wanxiang – the likely buyer of A123’s assets – has interest in providing Fisker the batteries it so badly needs, so that part may work itself out.

We’re just hoping they will find a solution pretty soon; it will be a shame not to see them on the market in the future!

If you remember the Bobs from Office Space, then you know what it means when a company hires an outside consultant.

Source: Bloomberg
Fisker Karma

Few car companies can’t wait for 2012 to end more than Fisker , as it combated quality issues, loan freezing and supplier bankruptcy throughout the year. Well, it looks like drama is going to follow the electric-car company into the New Year, unfortunately. As we already know, 338 Karmas were damaged during hurricane Sandy and some 16 units actually caught fire – not related to any faults by Fisker – and an insurance claim was submitted.

Apparently, the insurance company decided to void the claim after reviewing the claim. According to the report from Reuters, the issue becomes whether the damaged Karmas were “in transit” when they were damaged. In the case of “in transit” vehicles, sublimits beyond the $100 million limit on the insurance policy would apply.

In response to the denial, Fisker has filed a lawsuit against the company in an effort to get a court order for the insurance company – XL Insurance America – to pay the claim and for damages caused by the breach of contract. Hopefully Fisker can sort this out and get itself on track, as we were extremely impressed by the Karma on our test drive and we would hate to see any more hiccups in the vehicle’s production.

Source: Reuters
Fisker Karma

The biggest appeal Fisker has over its competitors in the market is the fact that it runs on electricity. But what good is it if your cars don’t have batteries in them?

Fisker found that out first-hand after the company in charge of manufacturing its batteries recently filed for bankruptcy, thus leading to the company suspending production the Karma , its $100,000 luxury plug-in hybrid.

There should come a point in time when Fisker’s sole battery supplier, A123 Systems, gets its books straightened out, but the concern for Fisker is the time being wasted waiting for manna to drop from the heavens in the form of either getting some financial assistance from the feds or a buyer stepping into the picture and purchasing the battery manufacturer outright.

Either scenario could take long time, especially considering that A123 has already gotten some federal support in the past, thus giving the latter the provision to give the green light on any potential buyer in the future.

Whatever the case may be, this new development came at the worst possible time for Fisker, particularly because the Karma’s debut in China could be delayed. We all know how big the Chinese market is and how many eager Chinese people are to plunk down money to get behind the wheel of an electric sports car.

With A123 Systems currently in bankruptcy, Fisker apparently has no other choice than to temporarily suspend production of the Karma.

Here’s to hoping that everything gets straightened out and everyone involved can return to regular business.

Source: Reuters

Ah, the Fisker Karma . It is likely one of the most well designed and heavily debated cars available today. Some people love it and cannot get enough of it and others can’t stand it. It’s truly one of the most polarizing cars on the market and a lot of that is because of some of the issues it has run into and the massive DOE loan that Fisker took out to help produce it.

We pretty much sit right in the middle. We’ve loved its looks from the day we saw the concept model that no one believed would ever be produced. Its issues and some of the sub-par reviews, on the other hand, pushed us back toward the middle..

Well, the only way we can really find out if we truly love it or hate it is to test drive it. And that is exactly what we did, as we took a road trip to Fisker of Tampa Bay at 320 East Fletcher Ave. in Tampa, and met up with Fisker brand manager Jackie Daly and general manager Bryan Mobley for an exclusive viewing and test drive.

So, did we walk away impressed or did the Karma underwhelm?

Click past the jump to find out.

Fisker Karma

Fisker began development of a revolutionary car, the Karma , roughly four years ago. At that time, folks were optimistic, excited, and had almost only good things to say about this upstart company. It’s crazy how fast things can change.

As time moved on, Fisker started running into some real issues that would likely destroy many startup companies. The downward trend started with the DOE freezing its loan to Fisker after it had only used about half of the available funds. The next issue was a pair or recalls – one in December 2011 and another in May 2012 – because of incorrectly positioned hose clamps that could cause a coolant leak. And you likely know, electricity and water do not mix.. Then came the fires…

The first fire came about in April 2012, when a man’s house and other two cars were damaged after his Karma caught fire in the garage. The cause of that fire was not known, but it is likely related to the following fire that came just months later. This second fire occurred in August and was easily contained to just the front end of the $100K luxury car. The one good thing to come out of this fire is that Fisker was quick to the aid of the owner and quick to mobilize a group of outside investigators to figure out that it was a failed low-temperature fan that caused the flame.

This final fire brought about the final recall of the Karma, to date. In this recall, Fisker asked 1,377 Karma customers to bring cars in to have the cooling fan replaced. Between all of these issues were complaints from customers about a Command Center that didn’t operate effectively and a “Stealth” mode that wasn’t too stealthy. Adding to those complaints was a very poor review of the Karma by Consumer Reports.

With these issues came a shellacking from the press – automotive and general – and all Fisker could do was try and get its own version of the story out. Well, we just gave Fisker an avenue to air its side of the story in our exclusive interview with Fisker’s Senior Director of Global Corporate Communications & PR, Roger Fisker.

To read what Fisker has to say about these issues and more about its future, click past the jump.

After nearly a year of seeing Mitt Romney and Barack Obama fling mud – maybe even a little poo – back and forth at each other, the election is finally over. Love him or hate him, Obama is in office for another four years and he has already shown that he likes to dwell in the automotive realm (see: automotive bailout, Chrysler bankruptcy, and DOE loans for EV technology).

A big one on our radar these days is the renewal of the CAFÉ standards – yes, it was a renewal; the CAFÉ standards are nothing new – and their direct impact on the sport car realm. By the year 2025, all automakers must have a corporate average fuel economy rating of at least 54.5 mpg, a number that sports cars often drag down.

There is a good possibility that one of three things will happen due to these standards. First, is the chance that automakers install more advance turbocharging technologies on vehicles in order to keep their power output high and fuel economy high too. With those technologies come rising price tags – something we are already experiencing today. The second – most unlikely – scenario is the complete elimination of all powerful sports cars, leaving behind just the likes of the underpowered-for-a-true-sports-car Scion FR-S -like vehicles. The third scenario is one that would satisfy our itch for fast cars and the EPA’s itch for eco-friendly cars, and that is the widespread development of super powerful electric, hydrogen fuel cell or natural gas sports cars.

The latter situation is one that we already know is possible. Have a look as the Tesla Model S and you’ll see a car that can travel 300 miles on a charge and still zip to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. And that is a rather large sedan, so imagine it as a sports car. Same goes for the mid-5-second sprint to 60 mph that the 5,000-pound Fisker Karma completes. The final example is the Maxximus LNG 2000 and its 1,600-horsepower natural-gas-powered engine.

We think that this renewal of Obama’s stay at the White House won’t necessarily bring about the conversion to alternative fuel sports cars in the next four years, but it will certainly accelerate the process significantly. We honestly think it is a thing to look forward too, not be afraid of. Just think, no more gas station trips!!

Fisker Karma

Yesterday, we let you know that 16 Fisker Karmas went up in flames after they were submerged at a New Jersey port following Hurricane Sandy. We now have Fisker’s official announcement regarding these fires, and it’s actually a little better a situation than we had initially assumed.

According to the report from Fisker, a single Karma caught fire after saltwater left corrosive residue on the vehicle control unit. This component then shorted out and caused a fire. The heavy winds from the Hurricane then spread the flames to the other 16 Karmas parked near it. This means that the other 15 burned Karmas actually survived submersion without catching fire. To us, that’s actually pretty incredible.

Also being reported is that the Karma was not the only vehicle that burned after Sandy beat the hell out of the northeast, as several Toyota Priuses and even a few gasoline-powered cars joined in on the automotive BBQ. Fisker has also debunked the myth that there was an explosion from the burning Karmas and that the lithium ion batteries – one of the more scary parts of electric vehicles – were not a contributing factor in the fire.

Just like we said before, when you add water to electronics, bad things are bound to happen. It’s actually pretty incredible that just one Karma went up in flames as a direct result of being submerged. In case you are thinking Fisker may have “cooked the books” on this investigation, keep in mind that the NHTSA was involved in the investigation.

UPDATE 11/08/2012: After a crazy week at Fisker, our contact was finally able to get back to us and let us know that the Karmas damaged totaled 338 and Fisker is putting through an insurance claim for them. Also, the cars destroyed were simply dealership stock and were not pre-sold vehicles, so no customers will be out of a car. Additionally, the damaged Karmas will not affect Fisker’s normal business operations moving forward.

Fisker also provided us with their full press release regarding the situation.

Click past the jump to read the full presser.

Fisker had some issues with Karmas and spontaneous combustion, as of late, and even mentioning the word “Fire” in Fisker’s home office is likely an offense likely worthy of firing. Wait, but you can’t say “Firing” either, so how about “Termination.” Reports out of New Jersey of Karmas catching fire following Hurricane Sandy couldn’t have possibly come at a worse time.

According to the reports, a group of Fisker Karmas were sitting at port in New Jersey when seawater submerged them. A short time after their submersion, 16 of the stored Karmas burst into flames. From the images we are seeing, they are total losses and we will likely never know the precise cause, but Fisker is diligently investigating the situation.

One thing is for sure here, this will likely not have anything to do with a flaw in the Karma’s design. It’s likely no more Fisker’s fault than a blow dryer’s fault for you getting electrocuted while drying your hair in the bathtub. It’s simple: deep water + electronics = “zap” and “boom.” This is multiplied when you add in the corrosive salt in the ocean and the fact that these cars were likely submerged for a long time.

We are more concerned with whether these cars were already sold to customers or if they were just dealership stock. Plus, with the financial eggshells that all startups walk on, we are concerned with how losing this large of a percentage of Karmas produced will affect Fisker’s 2012 and 2013 outlook.

We’ve reached out to Fisker to try to get a better grasp on the situation. We’ll pass any information we get along to you.

We’re used to seeing tuning projects that provide a nice little exterior upgrade and a killer engine upgrade to satisfy our need for speed. With regulations getting stricter and electric and hybrid vehicles gaining momentum, we’re going to have to get used to seeing projects with zero engine upgrades and plenty of exterior mods to make up for it. Case in point, the Fisker Karma lineup headed to the 2012 SEMA Auto Show with a variety of paint finishes.

Fisker teamed up with 3M to present four different paint schemes, each introduced for every 24 hours span of the SEMA Auto Show. Four days, four cars, and four colors, all with deep meaning, according to Fisker. The first paint finish for the Karma is a combination of Gloss Burnt Orange and Brushed Black Metallic "October Sun" to commemorate Fall. Next, there’s a Karma "Riverside" painted in Matte White with Gloss Blue Metallic racing stripes - a tribute to American racing heritage.

The third Fisker to be presented will feature a "Classic" Hot Rod Red combined with a bold, brushed aluminum-trimmed Gloss Black stripe honoring the great American custom car scene, while the fourth version - "Onward" - combines a very cool Satin Black and Gloss Burnt Orange to reflect Fisker’s new brand look and feel. This version will also have 3M’s Crystalline Automotive Film applied to its windows.

More details on these painted up Fisker Karmas will be unveiled during the 2012 SEMA Auto Show, so stay tuned.

Fisker Atlantic

A123 has been put through the ringer in recent history, most notably with its massive battery recall, and now it is just about belly up. Things were starting to look up for the battery make when it announced that a $450 million deal had been reached with Wanxiang Group Corp, but that deal recently fell through.

Now the inevitable is upon A123, as news came across the board that A123 had filed for bankruptcy protection, despite having received a $249 million government grant. With this bankruptcy filing also comes the likely liquidation of its assets. It appears as if A123 has already gotten a head start on this liquidation by negotiating to sell off its automotive business to Johnson Controls – well-known for building nearly every lead-acid and gel battery sold.

The deal is not yet done, but it is reportedly for the sum of $125 million and will include the Fisker , GM , and BMW contracts that A123 has already inked. Part of the proposed deal includes Johnson Controls fronting A123 $72.5 million in “debtor possession” funds to keep the bankrupt company running while the sale is being completed. There is no timetable for the completion of the deal, but per the press release, things will continue as usual for A123 during the entire sale process.

All we can hope for is a full turnaround once this technology gets in the hands of Johnson Controls, as the fate of the EV realm rests heavily on the technologies developed by A123. This could possibly be part of the reason that Fisker wasn’t shy about announcing that the upcoming Atlantic was delayed. We’ll also keep an eye on the Chevy Spark EV project to see if that is put on hold until this situation is resolved.

We’ll keep you updated.

Click past the jump to read A123’s press release.

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