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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Comments (8)
  1. Unrelated.

    Went out to B&N the other night, parked, got out of the car and was immediately overwhelmed by gasoline fumes. A little investigation revealed that I parked over a small puddle of gasoline left by the previous occupant of that spot. All it needed was an ignition source.

  2. interesting to see what develops here but looks like Fisker is off to a very rough start

  3. Another reason to be done with gas and other combustable materials in cars, manufacturing, boats and hopefully one day, even plains that pollute the ground, water and once burned, the air and our lungs. Let's invest more in sustainability and not profitability at the expense of the future.

  4. So has the fire investigation already ended, or are we still waiting on the official report?

  5. I well remember the problems of the VW Beetle, which had a flexible fuel line that connected the solid lines of the body to the engine
    platform, which moved independently of the body. That several inch long fuel line would come loose or break and gasoline would drip right on the exhaust pipe, which was located in the worst possible place. My Mother's VW Beetles had engine compartment fires on two separate occasions, destroying most of the drivetrain. The Feds never recalled the Beetle, believe it or not. A hot spot anywhere on an engine is a flashpoint - oil is contained thruout an engine and can leak in many places. Six cylinder Fieros had similar problems. Those kind of problems are often not caught during testing.Not an electric problem

  6. Was there gas in the tank and why were there fireworks in the garage?


  7. "as well as sustained high-speed testing on the German autobahn" - what time of the year did this testing occur? Germany can get very cold during the winter.

    In my opinion, hybrids are a nightmare because you have a complex gas motor that needs servicing and more maintenance than an electric motor. I'd rather stick to a pure Electric Car which has less complexities.

  8. Have you ever felt how warm your car is, hours after you park it in the garage? A localized lack of airflow, rather than the temperature of the ambient air itself (i.e., testing in the desert), could be a factor. Bad PR move by Fisker, suggesting the customer could be at fault (even if they were) before the investigation is concluded. Statements such as "working diligently to find the root cause" are much more reassuring to the public and to Fisker owners.

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