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Fisker Karma car dies in Consumer Reports testing
By: Ben Klayman
March 8, 2012
Automotive News

DETROIT (Reuters) -- A $100,000-plus Fisker Automotive luxury car died during Consumer Reports speed testing for reasons that are still unknown, leaving the struggling electric car startup with another blow to its image.

"It is a little disconcerting that you pay that amount of money for a car and it lasts basically 180 miles before going wrong," David Champion, senior director for the magazine's automotive test center, told Reuters.

Fisker has benefited from the publicity generated when actor Leonardo DiCaprio was handed the first Karma last summer and pop idol Justin Bieber received one as a gift this month.

The breakdown of the Consumer Reports car is more bad news for a company that already recalled some Karmas. Fisker also has changed its CEO and halted production over the past month as it seeks to renegotiate the terms of a $529 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Fisker officials could not immediately be reached to comment, although Champion said since the magazine buys the cars it tests anonymously the company may not know.

Under the microscope

Fisker has found itself under the microscope as its woes have mounted. In January, it halted Karma sales for four days to fix a software malfunction that at times triggered warning lights while temporarily freezing navigation systems.

In December, it recalled 239 Karmas due to a possible defect in batteries made by supplier A123 Systems that could cause a coolant fluid leak and electrical short circuit. The previous month, A123 reduced its full-year revenue outlook after Fisker unexpectedly cut orders.

The magazine bought the car new from a Connecticut dealer last Friday. On Wednesday, Consumer Reports engineers were just starting to calibrate the Karma's speed by driving 65 miles per hour down the magazine's test track in East Haddam, Conn., Champion said.

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