Was The 2012 Fisker Karma Released Before It Was Ready?

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2012 Fisker Karma during road test, Los Angeles, Feb 2012

Fisker Automotive has had a torrid time in the months following the launch of the 2012 Fisker Karma.

Facing recalls, software upgrades and the news that a car died in the hands of Consumer Reports, an ex-employee of a Fisker retailer has now claimed that Fisker pushed the Karma to the market before it was ready, in order to meet government milestones for Department of Energy loans.

According to Gigaom, the former Fisker salesperson employee, who now works for a Coda retailer, left the company partly because of the amount of vehicles having technical issues.

[UPDATE: Fisker issued a statement late this afternoon addressing the controversy, which we have provided in full on the second page of this article.]

The claim would certainly explain some of the quality issues we found when driving the Karma a few months back, including electrical issues, poor fit and finish, and body panel gaps that would be unacceptable on the cheapest cars in the market.

Gigaom contacted Fisker, who returned the following statement:

“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" adding that Fisker also has a 24-hour VIP call center and comprehensive warranty, for customers' peace of mind.

So was the 2012 Fisker Karma allowed onto the market before development was complete, or are its early problems simply inevitable teething issues associated with a startup automaker releasing a high-technology vehicle?

It's hard to judge at such an early stage, but the issues Fisker is experiencing need to be resolved quickly to preserve the company's reputation - if Fisker is to survive its early years.

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Comments (17)
  1. I especially liked the excuse that "dealing with a new technology" was to blame for those poorly fitting panels. Let's see now... that was new technology long before World War I. Here we have good evidence of what's wrong with this company - just listen to the words coming out of the mouth of its executives.

  2. so you never bought a phone, car, tv, piece of technology an expensive house that had problems?

  3. No, Inger, but fit and finish issues are >inexcusable

  4. There is a saying that you only get one chance to make a first impression. I am starting to wonder if Fisker is in the land of the living dead. Just a matter of time until the doors close.

    I would like to add this gem of a quote from the Fisker CEO in regards to the Consumer Reports issues.

    "Karma performed exactly as it was designed to."

    Was it designed to fail? OK, so I took it out of context a little, but still, not very contrite.

  5. Mind you, Fisker had to hurry the car on to the market trying to meet DOE loan requirements (loans which were subsequently halted anyway...). If the ensuing bad impression is going to kill Fisker than it's after Bright Automotive again government bureaucrats that killed a promising EV initiative. A worrying pattern. It seems it's actually the execution of the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program that's designed to make start ups fail.

  6. In fairness to the government, that program was put in place at a time when things looked bleak and they were looking to support jobs and throw money at it. Now things look better on the jobs front and worse on the deficit front so it might be reasonable to revisit the program.

    What is not excusable is stringing along the participants in the program with false hope. If the government has changed its mind, it should just say so. Or better yet, slowly phase out the program rather than bringing crashing to a halt.

  7. Yes things are looking better on the surface for the US economy probably no small thanks to the Obama administration going on a spending spree that saw government debt increase by 50% from 10 to 15 trillion dollars in less than four years time. It seems weird that in the period that saw the wildest government spending in history there was so little room for *loans* for new energy vehicle initiatives. Even Chrysler had to give up in desperation while negotiations dragged out endlessly. The program wasn't cancelled officially but what happened does look like deliberate sabotage.

  8. Ex-Employees are like Ex-girlfriends ... they are ex's for good reason.

  9. Antony, the journalist on gigaohm on her web post communicated to me that she had no basis to her article saying a former employee accused Fisker of delivering cars that were not ready. She also said she will adapt her story or retract if the person retracts their statement. Wow this is just a show with no real journalism or story. If both you and gigaohm start amending your articles, cutting and updates- it looks like a school or school who did not get their homework right! What happened to real journalists? Is it just easier to write rumors from the bedroom as a blogger, than get off your back and do proper research?

  10. @Inger: I'm not sure how much online news you read, but it's entirely standard practice to amend, correct, and update online stories as new information emerges. It's one of the great advantages of the digital medium: Stories can be updated or amended as necessary so new readers have the latest info, unlike print, which stays incorrect forever.

    I'm curious what Katie Fehrenbacher of GigaOm communicated to you re/the claim that "she had no basis to her article." E-mail me privately at john (at) highgearmedia (dot) com, if you would. That's a rather serious allegation and I'd like to know more about it.

    John Voelcker, editor, GreenCarReports.com

  11. John, yes I am a very avid digital news reader. As a dedicated reader of your website, Ms Fehrenbacher's and many others, I do understand that it is common place to update news. Even best of the bets journalists sometimes make mistakes or need to update stories. But when a journalist knowingly publishes something for which they have no basis and have to change their story multiple times, to us readers it smells a rat. That are these journalists taking us common people for a ride, deceiving us only to get more readership and hits on the website. At the end of the day everyone needs to make money, even website with blogs.

  12. I am surprised that Fisker would release cars with poorly fitting body panals. How many of them have they actually made? You think that they would have spent at least a few hours making sure that the body panals line up well on these vehicles before they show them to the press or sell them to the owners. What were they thinking? I could see some other things happening such as software upgrades since that is to be expected. leaking cars or poorly fitted body panals are not going to be tolerated on a $100,000 vehicle.

  13. Honestly if we were discussing a $35k car it might be easier to excuse issues here and there, but for the price-point of this "super car" they don't have a leg to stand on. Get it right or don't blow it by sending it out the door. The Leaf has been remarkably trouble free, and the Tesla S looks to be a much higher quality car for much less than a Karma.

  14. But Tesla have no product. Previous product discontinued, and future product nowhere in sight. Why does there share price keep going up? Anyone ever considered this. Eric how can you compare a concept with an actual car?

  15. Interesting, you haven't gone to one of the Tesla dealers and sat in an S? Pretty cool experience. Or you could go back and read some of the test drive articles these folks have penned. More than a concept.

  16. Eric a real car on the road in excess of 200 customers has to go through certain crash certifications and regulations. A model car is a model car. And there have been ZERO test drives on the tesla, unless i missed something????

  17. @Inger: As we reported here, there were test rides at speeds up to 100 mph of Model S beta prototypes for dozens of reporters & Tesla customers (perhaps hundreds) back in October:

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