Fisker Karma Fire: Owner, Company, Analyst Trade Accusations

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

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

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Oh dear. This could get ugly.

The owner of a new 2012 Fisker Karma that burned to the ground in Sugar Land, Texas, is trading accusations with Fisker.

The fire destroyed two other cars and damaged the garage it was stored in and other parts of the house. The owner reported a smell of burning rubber before he parked the car.

Fort Bend fire marshal Robert Baker said last week that the Karma was the cause of the blaze. He noted that numerous inspectors from Fisker had arrived on the scene to conduct their own investigation.

Last Tuesday, Fisker issued a statement noting that the car's lithium-ion battery pack was intact and that fire marshals were inspecting an electrical panel in the garage. The company also noted that "fireworks were found in the garage in or around the vehicles."

The next day, owner Jeremy Guttierez issued a statement through his attorney saying his family was "stunned" by Fisker's implication that "fraud or malicious intent" were "open questions" in the inquiry.

He noted that in the hope of a "full, fair and open inquiry" into the cause of the blaze, he had:

...fully accommodated the precise and somewhat peculiar demands of Fisker Automotive, who sent their self-proclaimed “SWAT Team” of engineers and inspectors (that included their own forensic cause and origin investigator) to the Gutierrez home within 24 hours of the fire. They descended upon the Gutierrez home in alarming numbers and immediately demanded a 24-hour lock-down of his home, including the remains of the Fisker Karma vehicle. They also cordoned off portions of the Gutierrez home with non-transparent tarps to block the view from the public.

2012 Fisker Karma EcoSport

2012 Fisker Karma EcoSport

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Autoweek reprinted the owner's complete statement, which Guttierez's attorney sent to the magazine.

A day later, Jon Bereisa, a noted member of the EV1 electric-car development team, suggested to Automotive News reporter Mark Rechtin that it was the tight engine packaging in the Karma's underhood area that caused the fire.

Bereisa, now CEO of consultant Auto Lectrification, told Rechtin he had been "alarmed" by the tight packaging in the engine compartment, which left very little room for heat shielding and ventilation around the exhaust system.

Any fluid that leaked onto the exhaust--whether gasoline, brake fluid, or engine coolant--could ignite, he said.

On Friday, Fisker fired back.

The company's powertrain director, Paul Boskovitch, said in a statement, "Our technologies and engine design have been fully tested and certified at the highest level."

car on fire

car on fire

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He slammed Bereisa's conjectures as "irresponsible and ill-informed," and suggested that he was doing nothing more than seeking "media attention for unfounded claims."

Boskovitch noted that the Karma uses non-flammable coolant, that both the brake booster and the power-steering pump and their fluid reservoirs are located on the "cold" side of the engine.

He cited extensive heat testing done on Karma prototypes, including "thousands of miles of incident-free operation in Death Valley and Palm Springs, California," as well as sustained high-speed testing on the German autobahn.

The company's most recent statement contradicted the last line of its previous release: Fisker will continue to participate fully in the investigation but will not be commenting further until all the facts are established.

From the looks of it, that could take a while.


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