More 2012 Fisker Karma Woe: Consumer Reports Review Savages Plug-In Hybrid

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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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The well-respected Consumer Reports doesn't pull any punches, and its review of the 2012 Fisker Karma range-extended electric luxury sedan is no exception.

The magazine all but savaged the car, calling it "full of flaws" and deeming its touchscreen controls an "ergonomic disaster."

The verdict may not have come as a complete surprise to Fisker and its latest CEO, Tony Posawatz.

Early this year, the magazine purchased its own Fisker Karma--it doesn't use cars provided by automakers--and took the $106,000 plug-in luxury car to its test track.

With less than 200 miles on it, during a routine highway speed test, the car went dead midway through the first day of driving. 

It had to be hauled away on a flatbed truck, which didn't leave a particularly good first impression. (It was far from the only Fisker to fail that month.)

Later that month, A123 Systems--which supplied the lithium-ion cells in the Karma's battery pack--had to recall cells that had been incorrectly fabricated in its Michigan plant.

Fisker had to replace the battery packs in more than 500 vehicles, costing it $55 million. A123, a U.S. company, had to be bailed out by a Chinese investor in August.

With a fresh battery pack, Consumer Reports resumed testing its Fisker Karma. But its writeup by Jake Fisher, director of the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, didn't get any better.

The magazine's conclusions essentially match our own impressions of the car, though it was somewhat harsher in some areas.

READ MORE: 2012 Fisker Karma - Full Review

The 2012 Fisker Karma, Consumer Reports wrote, has "tight confines and limited visibility" and is "very cramped inside" despite its "huge dimensions."

The magazine slammed the car for lack of refinement, especially compared to other large luxury sedans costing more than $100,000.

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

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

Enlarge Photo

The Karma's range-extending engine is "raspy" and has "an unrefined roar" when running, the test staff wrote.

Its fuel economy is "an unimpressive 22 mpg" in that mode (it's also the least efficient plug-in car sold in the U.S. today), and the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine requires premium fuel.

The car's great weight of 5,300 pounds hampers its "agility and performance," and the Karma "lacks the oomph you expect" from such a sleek, low vehicle.

The touchscreen in the central console, which operates many of the car's minor controls, is "badly designed," the controls are "over-complicated" and "frustrating."

Most worrisome, even after software upgrades and the new battery, the 2012 Karma continued to have reliability glitches.

READ MORE: 2012 Fisker Karma Is Real, But Will Company Survive?

The magazine's engineers "continued to encounter disconcerting intermittent glitches related to the gauges, warning lights, power windows and radio."

In the end, the 2012 Fisker Karma's test score was so low that Consumer Reports could not recommend the car.


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Comments (6)
  1. It really gives me more respect for what GM has accomplished with the Volt. Also, for a startup company, Tesla has done amazingly well.

    So is the handwriting on the wall for Fisker?

  2. @John. I agree, Tesla is doing a great job with quality assurance since they have not had any stumbles. Hopefully Tesla can ramp up production enough to deliver the 12,000 or so Model S that deposit holders have reserved. Fisker has got to get its act togather or its curtains for them. No one is going to put up with a poorly assembled noisy and rough feeling gasoline engine and battery failures and 2 fires. Fisker has to get its quality control togather and they need a more practical sport sedan since I heard the Karma's interior room is like a subcompact.

  3. This just proves that starting a car company from scratch is NOT easy. Even Tesla had its share of issues with its first roadster and the second revision Tesla S is getting better. But I would expect Tesla to improve a much faster pace. By the time it comes out with the $30k sedan, it will be its 4th or 5th launch and things should get easier.

    If Fisker can "survive" this first product, it might have a decent future. More competition will only benefit consumers.

    I actually saw a silver Karma last Friday afternoon on US-101 in the wine country...

  4. From the article, it appears the Fisker Karma had a fisk full of problems.

    Why not toss that gas motor out and replace it with more batteries? That will get rid of some complexities.

  5. I'm not a fan of touchscreens for controls. I much prefer the old switches and dials which you can operate by feel without taking your eyes off the road.

  6. Fisker Karma looks more like the Volt Prototype than the Volt. It's not good for any vehicle like this to have issues as the popular sentiment is to lump all EV's into the same category of success or failure.

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