Blog Post

Fisker electric Karma was pushed to market before it was ready

Fisker Karmas

Updated. Electric car startup Fisker Automotive pushed its long-delayed inaugural electric car to market before it was market-ready in order to try to meet government milestones for a loan, according to a former Fisker retailer employee that left the company. (Update 3/15/12: The Chronicle discloses more on the exec and I’ve corrected this article to reflect that the employee worked at a Fisker retailer, not as a full time Fisker employee).

Update 3/15/12: Fisker sent over a second statement that says these “allegations are absolutely untrue,” and the exec “was not privy to any business information from Fisker concerning the development of the Karma sedan and/or Fisker’s financing.”

Over the past few months, as hundreds of Fisker’s extended-range electric Karmas have been shipped to customers, some of the cars have had a variety of technical issues, including being recalled for a battery problem and requiring software upgrades, and Consumer Reports even reported last week that a Karma it had bought to test out died upon arrival.

Consumer Reports wrote in a blog post:

We buy about 80 cars a year and this is the first time in memory that we have had a car that is undriveable before it has finished our check-in process.

The former Fisker retailer employee said that it wasn’t uncommon for the first Karma cars to have technical issues, and said that was one reason for leaving the Fisker retailer — the employee now works at with electric car company Coda. The former retailer employee says that Fisker launched the car before it was market-ready in order to try to meet milestones from the Department of Energy for its loan. Fisker was awarded a $529 million loan award from the DOE in late 2009, but because the Karma was so delayed to market, Fisker had been unable to draw down on the rest of the DOE loan since May 2011.

I’ve contacted Fisker for a response and will update this when I hear back. Update 3/12/12: A Fisker spokesperson says to me: “Quality and customer satisfaction are the top priority for Fisker Automotive. With any new technology there will be unanticipated bugs and we have demonstrated the ability to quickly resolve them on a case-by-case basis. In addition, Fisker’s 24 hour VIP call centers and comprehensive vehicle warranty are also designed to give our customers complete peace of mind.”

It should be noted that given electric car technology is new, it’s not so uncommon for the first line of electric cars to face some of these types of issues — the first versions of Tesla’s Roadster faced a few recalls.

As a result of the DOE withholding the rest of the Fisker’s loan, Fisker said it has suspended production of its second car the Nina, which it was planning to build in Delaware. Fisker also says it is now looking for alternative funding to build Nina and to get its Karma cars to market.

A couple weeks ago Fisker brought in a new CEO, former Chrysler Chief Executive, Tom Lasorda, and said on a call with the media that Fisker is planning to be profitable in 2013 off of just the Karma line. Fisker said as of the end of February, it had produced 2,000 cars and shipped 840 of them to dealers and distributors. The extended electric car the Karma costs $100,000.

27 Responses to “Fisker electric Karma was pushed to market before it was ready”

  1. You all are missing the bigger issue. This is yet another example of market distortion created by crony capitalism. When will we let the free market decide who will receive
    investment? How much money did Fiskar pump into politics instead of R&D?

    • Tom- its Fisker not Fiskar. Fisker did not pump any money into politics, unless you have another whistleblower 5 degrees of separation away with confidential news about the company like Katie did! I think given they are a consumer company so there customers will decide. Given they sold more cars in 3 months than tesla did in 7 years must be a free market move!

  2. californiarestinpeace

    I’ve known the top Fisker brass for a few years now in addition to the venture capital teams. I find it highly unlikely that any Fisker ‘retailer’ employee (whatever that means), had any access to the type of information that the person claims to have. The people running this company are some of the best at every level in global business, they’d not make a blunder of that type. Its more likely that there are and will be glitches in this new technology. It doesn’t change the excellence of the brand or the brilliance of the product in any way for me.

    • I agree with you. Remember the glitches with iPhone or personal computers or even with any new technology that came out. What is sad is when good reporters like Ms Fehrenbacher get contaminated and start blogging than reporting. If Ms Fehrenbacher makes any more cuts, changes or updates to an article it looks like a school girl who got her homework wrong! When people risk their capital, careers and lives to create novel products, the least journalists can do is get off their bedroom blogging and do real research.

  3. Katie why would you write a report that is not accurate or do not have solid basis for? Shouldn’t journalism be more about facts than sizzle and rumor? Or perhaps there would be no readership otherwise?

  4. I’ve lost a lot of respect for you Katie. Your article was unsourced, uncorroborated and factually inaccurate. Any true journalist would be ashamed of themselves. This is especially true since you know full well that this story will be repeated, linked to, retweeted and further distored. This is not journalism, this is low integrity rumor mongering. You should hold yourself to a higher standard.

    • The article wasn’t unsourced, it clearly had a source and the Chronicle used the same quote from the same source on the same subject. It also wasn’t rumor mongering, it was a person who worked closely with Fisker cars and had informed info about them. I also clarified the post to say he worked for a Fisker retailer, when Fisker said that. Sorry you feel that way.

      • So how do you know the person had confidential information about the company, and had the ability to make such a major allegation? It is a pretty bold step to publish something like this. Either you are very brave or this is a career suicide when the truth comes out.

      • @Inger, What is left to come out? I quoted an electric car exec who used to work for a Fisker retailer who said the Karma wasn’t ready to come out when it launched. As did the Chronicle. If the exec ends up retracting his statement, then I’d update the post with that.

      • So you are saying you would take comments from someone who never had substantiated information, write any rumors, and news with no basis, and then if it changes you would simply update your comments? So guilty until proven innocent? what kind of crony journalism is this?

  5. Wow at least Fisker builds something instead of trafficking in sloppy speculative journalism. First consumer reports has to immediately blog about the breakdown and let 50 other websites copy the story — none of which picked up the resolution story 2 days later of course. Now we have these meaningless anonymous quotes from an employee who left for a chinese competitor, which get picked up as hard fact by another dozen copycat blogs. Anybody can speculate about what is the proper time to ship — Fisker is learning about deep quality control now. Where’s the deep quality control on these blogs?

  6. quincho

    so the roof solar panel produces 120W. as i once praised your articles katie do you have any idea if that’s enough to power the whole climate control system in summer, for how long?is that peak power 120W or average power output in normal (not cloudy) day? i was just wondering…

  7. Thomas Fritz used to work at Fisker, he didn’t actually say that – it was leaked by a GM employee to the press as a insider tip. The same person who leaked does the PR at Coda which owned by General Motors. Coinciding with the Coda beinging assembly in Cali..China.

    • What these people have to do is stop promising stuff they can’t deliver… This nonsense where they want to roll out new bodystyles absolutely has to be shelved indefinitely (the production quality of Karma is apparently as good as a 1970s GM in terms of fit and finish). They need to focus on delivering a few hundred Karmas a month that are perfect for 2012… If they reach 3000 units, fine… 5000 units? Absolutely amazing….

      Simultaneously, they need to get Nina in a place they can show the world an engineering prototype by second half.

      Those things will begin to rebuild credibility. Endless announcements about bodystyles and bogus production targets that are multiples of even hypothetical market demand for a car most people have never heard of are just not useful.

    • EcoActiveGuy

      Katie, Did you verify if he ever actually worked directly for Fisker? I understand that he is being asked to retract his statement — since he WAS NOT AN EMPLOYEE!