Several months ago it seemed that not a day could pass without someone, somewhere making fun of GM's biggest post-bankruptcy flaming failure to date: the Chevy Volt (gross and net of channel stuffing). Of course, since it was all in the name of ecological progress and carbon footprint reduction, most media observers let it go as merely one of the peculiar hurdles on the way to an utopian future in which America would no longer rely on crude imports from evil petroleum cartels. The time has come to redirect ridicule to that other $102,00+ MSRP object of electric aspiration, and henceforth - mockery: the Fisker Karma supercar.
To be sure, the Karma is no stranger to spontaneous combustion, with at least one model so far going up in flames in May, "damaging its owner's home and earning the company behind that hybrid sedan plenty of bad press." Fisker promptly issued a statement in which it promptly denied everything and, as so often happens these days, attributed everything to a glitch. In the passive voice: after all why blame failure on a human, when blaming it on chance will do: "Our technologies and engine design have been fully tested and certified at the highest level. It is irresponsible and ill-informed for technology pundits to suggest otherwise in order to secure media attention for unfounded claims."
Alas for the vendor of allegedly flaming "supercars" the media attention has returned with a vengeance.
Fisker Automotive can't seem to catch break -- because its Karma hybrid EV sedan has yet again become too hot. Similar to an incident last spring that left a model burnt to near smithereens and damaged its owner's house, the Karma above caught fire in a Woodside, CA parking lot while powered off. Jalopnik was to first to get word of the incident, noting that the damage remained reserved to the front left of the vehicle, near where an exhaust is located. As the story goes, the owner found the vehicle emitting smoke after returning from a grocery run, prompting a call to Fisker and then the local fire department, which arrived as it was already engulfed in flames.
In a statement to Wired's Autopia, Fisker has been vehement to note that the damage appears to be far from where the car's battery and sensitive electrical components are located, and that it wasn't plugged in for a charge -- furthermore, it's already had correspondence with the owner and is actively investing the matter with plans to issue an update when there are findings to share.
Alas, as anyone who has heard that whole "fool me twice" saying, Fisker's credibility after not one but two spontaneously combusting incidents may have also gone up in flames. That said, a full scale recall of the Karma is hardly in store: after all the "electric" movement can hardly stand the humiliation of not only the GM Volt which comes with packed with such extras as the occasional inferno at no added extra cost. Should supercars that charge far more than the Volt also be forced to shutter then the public attention may once again shift from Mitt Romney's private equity track record to Barack Obama's public equity record. Because at the end of the day, the flaming culprit may be none other than taxpayer funded A123 which makes the Fisker car battery.
It remains to be seen whether the Karma's battery system, supplied by A123 Systems (and the focus of previous recalls), had any role in igniting the car. Thankfully there were no reports of injuries from the incident, but as you can tell from the photo, the car was essentially totaled.
There is good news: after throwing away millions in US taxpayer funding, A123, which calls itself the U.S. leader in advanced batteries, and which like ENER1, is rapidly on its way to another full taxpayer investment wipeout, may finally be the burden of Chinese funding. Or maybe not. As Bloomberg reports:
A123 rose 6.4 percent yesterday in New York trading after announcing the financing deal with Xiaoshan City, China-based Wanxiang, the nation’s largest auto-components company. The accord allows Wanxiang to buy an 80 percent stake in A123, which calls itself the U.S. leader in advanced batteries.
The U.S. company’s stock has plunged 69 percent this year as the costs of replacing batteries for Fisker prompted unprofitable A123 to pursue additional fundraising.
A Florida lawmaker opposed the potential sale of control in A123 Systems Inc. (AONE), the U.S. maker of automotive rechargeable batteries, to a Chinese company, citing national security concerns.
Representative Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, made the comments yesterday after A123 announced a non-binding deal - - worth as much as $450 million -- that would allow China’s Wanxiang Group Corp. to buy control of the U.S. company. A123, which supplies lithium-ion batteries to luxury plug-in vehicle maker Fisker Automotive Inc., is the recipient of a $249.1 million federal grant. Three calls to Wanxiang’s public relations office were unanswered.
“It appears the Department of Energy and the Obama administration have failed to secure sensitive taxpayer funded intellectual property from being transferred to a foreign adversary, which raises serious national security issues,” Stearns said in an e-mailed statement.
Judging by the results, the Chinese need to desperately learn a thing or two about sensitively spontaneously combusting, environmentally-conscious intellectual property as well. If that means no longer throwing good US taxpayer money after bad, so be it. If it also means that China, like the US before it, will sink billions in good cash into projects that ultimately generate total losses for everyone involved, then more electric power to them.
In the meantime, enjoy this video of the Fisker Karma quietly amortizing to $0.00 in the span of seconds.