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Fisker Karma Electric-Car Production Ramps Up, But Slowly

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2012 Fisker Karma

2012 Fisker Karma

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Every carmaker ramps up production on a new vehicle slowly.

So Fisker Automotive struck back at the thesis of a GigaOm article yesterday that suggested the company was delaying the production schedule for its 2012 Karma extended-range electric luxury sport sedan into the middle of next year.

Lithium-ion cell supplier A123 Systems [NSDQ:AONE] made that claim in its earnings call yesterday, in which it said a "sudden" and "dramatic" cut in demand for its cells by Fisker had led it to reduce income projections and even lay off workers.

Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher lays blame for the delay at the feet of various U.S. and state regulatory agencies, who took longer than the company expected to certify the Fisker Karma as legal to sell.

The company is working hard to ramp up production levels this quarter, according to Ormisher, to reach full production levels "early next year." And he said Fisker has adequate stocks of A123 cells for its immediate needs, and was "not in need of more battery stocks at the present time."

It's unusual for a supplier, even a publicly traded one like A123, to break news and comment on its relationship with an automaker in other than glowing or nonspecific terms.

A123 is likely far less dependent on Fisker, however, than the recently delisted Ener1 cell-maker was on Think Automotive, which declared bankruptcy in June.

Fisker has said it expects to build up to 15,000 Karma sedans a year once the line at assembly contractor Valmet in Finland is operating at full speed.

And as of late last month, the 2012 Fisker Karma is now, finally, on sale in the U.S. at Fisker dealers.

2012 Fisker Karma

2012 Fisker Karma

Enlarge Photo

As it turned out, July "delivery" events this summer--including to actor-activist Leonardo DiCaprio and venture capitalist and Fisker board member Ray Lane of Kleiner Perkins--were staged media events using factory-registered cars.

The October launch of actual sales was slightly marred by an EPA rating of just 20 mpg on the 2012 Karma electric sport sedan when it operates in range-extending mode, with the 2.0-liter engine turning a generator to provide electricity that powers the pair of electric motors driving the rear wheels.

We'll be waiting to hear whether Fisker logs actual retail deliveries of 2012 Karmas during the month of November. Stay tuned for our December 1 U.S. sales roundup of plug-in cars.

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