Startup carmaker Fisker Automotive has probably learned a lot of lessons about the timing of auto launches.

Although the car went into production in March, it still hasn't been approved for sale by various U.S. regulatory bodies--including the Environmental Protection Agency--as of this month.

Yesterday, Fisker unveiled its Surf five-door "shooting brake" model, which will join the lineup next year, at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

At the event, we asked founder and CEO Henrik Fisker when the company expected to get all its final approvals so it could start to log real sales.

"This month," Fisker said confidently, "at the end of this month."

Roger Ormisher, director of global communications for Fisker, followed by explaining that if the company received its paperwork "around the end of the month," it could start to record retail sales during the month of October.

Prince Albert of Monaco and Henrik Fisker drive Fisker Karma on Monaco Grand Prix circuit, May 2011

Prince Albert of Monaco and Henrik Fisker drive Fisker Karma on Monaco Grand Prix circuit, May 2011

The company has already built hundreds of cars, but isn't shipping them into the U.S. yet, because they can't legally be unloaded as production vehicles without that paperwork.

The company first showed the prototype Fisker Karma range-extended electric sports sedan at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, and the Karma S Sunset convertible was unveiled a year later.

Over the next two years, it missed various deadlines to get the car into production, which it accomplished in March this year.

So the first "customer deliveries" that Fisker touted last month--to Fisker's board chairman, venture capitalist Ray Lane, and to noted environmentalist and actor Leonardo DiCaprio--weren't actually logged as sales, since the cars can't legally be sold.

Last summer, a Los Angeles Fisker dealer had said he expected to deliver his first cars to paying customers in March or April of this year. That didn't happen.

Then Ormisher had told GreenCarReports in June the first cars would be delivered in July. Now Ward's Auto reports that some Fisker dealers say they don't expect to start getting cars until November.

We suspect--and we hope--that Fisker will be far more careful in the dates it promises for its next model line, the "Project Nina" mid-size range-extended sedan (for which it is buying 2.0-liter turbocharged engines from BMW).



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