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Did Fisker Karma Cause Garage Fire?

Conflicting reports on cause.

by on May.09, 2012

A Fisker Karma with company founder Henrik Fisker.

So far, the Fisker Karma hasn’t exactly set the automotive market on fire – but there are conflicting reports on the cause of a fire in a suburban Houston garage that destroyed one of the plug-in sports cars and several exotic vehicles, with one official pointing to the Karma.

The May 3 fire in Sugar Land, Texas seriously damaged a garage containing a Karma, Mercedes-Benz SUV and an Acura NSX.  While the lithium-ion battery on the Fisker appears to have been intact, the initial investigation pointed to the plug-in.

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Robert Baker, the head of the Bend County fire department’s investigating team told Auto Week magazine that he believed the Karam “was the origin of the fire, but what exactly caused that we don’t know at this time.”

The news would be a major setback for the California start-up, which has faced significant delays in its roll-out of new products, including the Karma, with its next model, the Atlantic, indefinitely delayed. Named for Danish auto designer Henrik Fisker, the firm has had a federal loan withdrawn and is racing to line up private equity to keep going.

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Lutz Lashes Out at Volt Critics

by on Feb.01, 2012

USMC Captain Bob Lutz (ret.) climbs back into the cockpit to defend the Chevrolet Volt.

Former Marine pilot Bob Lutz has strafed some of the best-known conservative pundits for their criticism of the Chevrolet Volt, including radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox New commentator Bill O’Reilly – the latter deserving what Lutz called “the Oscar for totally irresponsible journalism.”

The ever-outspoken Lutz, a former General Motors Vice Chairman, broke silence in the wake of last week’s hearings stemming from several fires that followed federal crash tests of the Volt and its battery pack.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration briefly opened and then quickly closed an investigation into the plug-in hybrid after General Motors identified the likely source of the problem and announced steps to reduce the likelihood of fires.

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But lawmakers used the January 25th hearing as a political set piece to raise questions about the 2009 federal bailout of General Motors and alleged improprieties by the administration’s top auto safety executive. Though those themes gained little traction during the hearings the Volt has become a popular whipping boy among conservative pundits like Limbaugh and O’Reilly, the latter making it sound like the battery cars routinely catch fire during a segment with TV pundit Lou Dobbs.

“That simply isn’t the case,” said Lutz, in a column for Forbes.  In a subsequent interview with the Detroit Free Press, he lamented the lack of “ethics” and “fairness” the conservative commentators demonstrated.

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Opinion: A Waste of a Good Man’s Time

Safety is secondary when politics becomes theater.

by on Jan.30, 2012

GM CEO Dan Akerson at last week's Congressional hearing on the Chevy Volt.

So much of Washington is political theater, meant to do nothing except entertain, advance political ambition, or provide political cover.

Consider what happened here last Wednesday.

The augustly titled House Subcommittee on Government Reform and Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending called a hearing.

Was it to congratulate Detroit’s chief executives and workers on busting their tails to save the domestic automobile industry, the major component of American manufacturing? Was it to congratulate General Motors Co., three short years after going through bankruptcy, for regaining the global sales crown? Was it even to conduct a cursory review on how GM, 26.5% owned by the federal government, has been using taxpayer money?

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No. It was none of those things. Instead, the Republican-controlled subcommittee, which has subpoena power,  was “investigating” already explained and thoroughly understood, by anyone with the practical sense to understand such things, latent fires occurring in a few plug-in electric Chevrolet Volts days and weeks AFTER they had been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Did Feds Inadvertently Cause Chevy Volt Fire?

Feds didn't follow protocol after crash test.

by on Nov.11, 2011

Did NHTSA inadvertently cause a fire after crash testing a Chevrolet Volt?

Copyright 2011 by TheDetroitBureau.com

The spotlight is on the Chevrolet Volt following word that one of the plug-in hybrids caught fire while being tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But TheDetroitBureau.com has learned that the fire was readily preventable had a few simple steps been taken after a Volt was put through a series of tests three weeks earlier.

Federal regulators have promised a full investigation of the spring incident in which the Volt caught fire and burned several nearby vehicles.  That has raised serious questions about the safety of its batteries, though GM officials say it may instead require adapting federal crash tests – as well as what happens in the field in the event of a real collision.

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The fire occurred at a private facility in Wisconsin where the NHTSA conducts crash tests on new vehicles.  On May 12, the battery car was subject to a so-called “pole” test, where it is rammed into a barrier at 20 mph to simulate a side impact.  The vehicle was then subject to what is known informally as the “rotisserie test,” where it is rolled over into various positions to test for leaks that might have occurred during the crash.

Ironically, the Volt did well enough to earn a five-star rating, the best possible.

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