Fisker Automotive has ordered a recall of its Karma plug-in hybrid – the second since it was launched earlier this year – in the wake of a fire that destroyed one of the vehicles in a Northern California parking lot.
The maker blames a sealed fan unit for the blaze, rather than the lithium-ion battery pack. But the incident is nonetheless a serious setback for the struggling start-up which earlier this year had a federal low-interest loan frozen, forcing it to seek out private capital to help complete the development of its second – and arguably even more critical product line.
“We are committed to responding swiftly and decisively to events such as this to ensure total customer satisfaction,” says Henrik Fisker, founder and chairman of the California-based automaker. “This incident resulted from a single, faulty component, not our unique EVer powertrain or the engineering of the Karma. As this situation demonstrates, Fisker Automotive is dedicated to doing whatever is necessary to address safety and quality concerns.”
A statement from Fisker, meanwhile, quoted the owner of the damaged, $103,000 battery car as offering praise in the wake of the event and subsequent investigation.
“I have been incredibly impressed with the way Fisker has handled this incident,” owner Rudy Burger said. “I have personally started seven technology companies and know from direct experience that the U.S. needs more innovative companies of this type, especially in the automobile sector.”
The recall was ordered after an independent forensic review of the fire that occurred in a Woodside, California parking lot earlier this month. The blaze was centered in the left front corner of the vehicle and appears to have been caused by a faulty cooling fan. The Karma’s large lithium-ion battery pack was not seriously damaged.
Fisker has quite literally come under heat this year, starting with another fire in a Texas garage that destroyed not only a Karma but several other luxury vehicles. Local investigators initially blamed the plug-in hybrid but later backed off. There have been some indications the incident might have been the result of arson. A final cause has not yet been determined.
The two fires only exacerbate other problems at Fisker. The maker earlier this year was advised that the federal government was freezing a $529 million loan originally intended to help Fisker bring to market a second, less expensive model, the Atlantic. The company has since been racing to line up private equity and thinks it will be in a position to bring the new model to market in 2014, about a year later than planned.
Complicating matters, Fisker had to order a recall last March when it discovered a defect causing some of its lithium-ion battery packs to short out. That problem was caused by a manufacturing defect at a Michigan plant run by supplier A123. In turn, that battery maker is now in a deep financial hole and likely to sell a majority stake to a Chinese investor.
Just last week, Fisker announced another in a series of recent management changes. Tony Posawatz, the recently retired director of General Motors’ battery car program – and a major player in the development of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid – signed on as Fisker Automotive’s new CEO. He replaces one-time Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda, who had been an early investor in the battery-car company.
Tags: auto news, battery cars, car news, electric vehicles, fiker plug-in hybrid, fisker fire, fisker karma, fisker news, fisker recall, fisker second recall, henrik fisker, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, plug-in hybrids, thedetroitbureau, tom lasorda, tony posawatz