Fisker Says Consumer Report's Car Functioned Properly

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Problems with Fisker Karma might be due to lack of testing and development.

Developing a car is a troublesome task; founding a new car company is almost an impossible one. Combining these two tasks while adding a third dimension with the implementation of a new, untested and unproven propulsion technology, is akin to digging yourself a big hole. And that is what seems to have happened with Fisker Automotive. The new cars of the California based company have been under heavy scrutiny since taking to the roads.

Last week Consumer Report reported on a broken Karma, even before the start of a long term test. However this week Tom LaSorda, Fisker's new CEO, sent a letter to customers, saying that the car shut itself down after detecting a fault. "The Karma performed exactly as it was designed to," LaSorda wrote. "The onboard diagnostics detected a fault and entered a protection mode that shut the car down to protect other components. We are sorry for the inconvenience this caused the customer." That is of course admirable, though nobody expects this sort of problem with a new car.

The Karma is now back, with a new battery, at the Consumer Report's test fleet. One explanation of these teething problems was given this week by John Hoffman, a store manager for Coda of Silicon Valley, a new dealership for Coda electric cars. Hoffman, who previously sold Fisker cars, said that four out of every five $107,000 car he sold in the last few weeks immediately developed problems related to their software and complicated electronics. The Karma, he said to, "is a phenomenal car, but it just wasn't ready to come to market."

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According to other sources Fisker Automotive was under pressure to comply with benchmarks set in the DOE loan guarantees contract and rushed the cars to the market before they were fully tested. Of course one has to bear in mind that Hoffman now sells Coda sedans, which are about $70,000 cheaper than the Karma; perhaps not a direct competitor, but competition nonetheless. The first Coda electric cars rolled off the assembly line this week, promising cheap and reliable electric transportation.

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