Tesla And Fisker: Who's Winning, Who's Losing? (Video Chat)

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Right now, we seem to get news about Tesla Motors or Fisker Automotive almost every day. Some is good, some isn't.

Yesterday, Green Car Reports editor John Voelcker sat down with High Gear Media's social-media manager, Joel Feder, to discuss the two companies in a Google+ Hangout on Air.

The live video chat was hosted by GCR's sister site for sports and luxury cars, Motor Authority.

Voelcker and Feder began their discussion with brief background on both companies and their vehicles.

The Fisker Karma is an extended-range electric luxury sport sedan that's assembled in Finland with a battery supplied by A123 Systems. Fisker says the Karma can travel about 50 miles electrically, though the EPA rated the Karma at 32 miles of electric range.

The Tesla Model S is a pure battery-electric car with three different sizes of battery pack, letting buyers opt for different amounts of driving range. The Model S is built in California, and Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has just recently ramped up to full capacity.

Both car companies have increased the prices on their electric cars since they were first announced. Fisker's price increases have been more substantial, while Tesla honored its original pricing for customers who had already placed their deposits.

When it came to driving impressions, both Feder and Voelcker agreed that the Fisker felt like a hand-built car, with more than a few quality control issues. The Karma is also a large car with a very small interior; the most remarkable thing about it seems to be that it was actually built in four years, and--for the most part--it works.

The Model S, on the other hand, felt like a real production car. Its fit and finish is near luxury levels, and fares well against the competition. The interior is spacious and well laid-out. Feder noted that while the central 17-inch color capacitive touchscreen is impressive, he felt its brightness--even at the lowest setting--was distracting to the driver at night.

The video chat wound up with discussions of some of the issues the automakers have faced.

Fisker has clearly had more challenges: The Karma has caught fire more than once, the company hasn't built a Karma in about six months, its battery supplier went bankrupt, and Consumer Reports tore the Karma apart in its review.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Enlarge Photo

That isn't to say the Model S has no faults, but it has had fewer issues--and we've reported on the handful of Model S glitches and quirks. The factory has just reached its full production capacity, and in other news, Consumer Reports just took delivery of its Model S and looks forward to putting on some miles.

Voelcker and Feder closed with a discussion of each company's future, and whether one or both of these two new American car companies will survive.

Watch the video, and let us know what you think the future holds in the Comments below.


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Comments (14)
  1. I wonder though if Tesla's board could sell the company without Elon and Kimble's blessing. It seems like the amount of shares they control would make it extremely difficult.

  2. I don't see why selling the company would be a good thing? At least at this point in the game. What you want is for the company to become established and actually influence the market in a significant and lasting way before it's sold. That way the progress that they have fought so diligently for is not swallowed up or swept under the rug by their knew owner.

  3. Fisker versus Tesla, the clear leader is Tesla. And if Fisker Automotive is sold some time this year then they're no longer an independent brand. Whereas Tesla looks like they will remain independent because at the moment they only seem to be getting bigger. Sure both companies have suffered cash flow problems, but Tesla was suffering at the same time the entire world was suffering through the banking crisis. And like many companies they survived and have rebounded, Fisker on the other hand is suffering in what are supposed to be good times. If Fisker survives they may not end up being the company they started out to be.

  4. Good points, I think. Fisker will, as you noted, very likely need to be acquired to survive, possibly by a Chinese OEM or by the company which bought the assets of A123. Tesla certainly could end up in the same situation some day, but at this stage, it's holding its own and earning lots of respect.

    Ideally, they'd both stay independent, but let's hope at least Tesla makes it on its own. Sure, the technology going to an established OEM wouldn't kill the EV, but it'd still be better to have a company dedicated solely to EVs.

  5. I enjoyed listening in on your chat. Agreed with pretty much all that was said about both companies. I think Fisker's days are numbered, and regarding Tesla, I think they would be an excellent fit into the Toyota fold probably better than any other company. Tesla would be an excellent All-Electric brand to sell along side of Lexus vehicles at select dealerships. Toyota is already collaborating with Tesla on the Electric Rav 4. And by buying Tesla, Toyota could hit the ground running with electric cars, while at the same time keep churning out their hybrids. Just my 2 cents.

  6. I can't argue with your points at all, John. I just hope that if this ever happens, that a non-Toyota designer be put in charge of all Tesla vehicles. I'm just far from a fan of Toyota's designs. if it were BMW (see the i3 or i8) or Audi, I'd be okay, although, as I noted above in a separate post, I really hope Tesla can stay independent.

    Tesla makes beautiful designs (so did Fisker, but...) so I just hope that if the company is bought we don't have them placed into boring vehicles. Not just Toyota, most mainstream vehicles are a bit bland for my taste.

  7. get a headset, to much keyboard noise :-(

  8. The difference is that Fisker is NOT unique in its technology. It doesn't have any real technology IP in its design. Tesla is advanced in its design with its own unique technology.

    When you are going for the premium technology market, you have to be a "leader"...

  9. I liked the article, but this video is awful because of the clicking and keyboarding in the background. I found it too painful to watch. Luckily this is easy to fix by using headsets the next time you guys make a video. Or, at least use a keyboard/mouse that is well away physically from your microphones. :-)

  10. Tesla's future depends on profitability, Elon Musk and battery tech developments. If Elon Musk wants his name in the history books (and he definitely does) he needs to hold on to his company so it remains innovative and disruptive. If the right battery tech comes along the sky is the limit and Tesla could easily become a major independent player.

    Sell too soon to another major car company and Tesla ends up being just a label for the niche plug-in products of a company that's mostly interested in holding on to the ICE business model until the oil runs out. A brand that will probably be all but forgotten a century from now. I don't think Musk is interested in that scenario unless lack of profitability forces his hand.

  11. Comment disabled by moderators.

  12. Meant to do a "thumbs up"

  13. Rude manager, doesn't respect co-workers.

  14. Nice discussion, but you cannot compare the Karma to the Tesla S cause Karma was made from a dead start and the Model S had the advantage of mistakes made on the first car to improve on. Wait for the At;antic to compare to the Tesla...will Fisker survive, well anything Al Gore has money in will come out on top!

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