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Why Fisker Fails as Tesla Motors Succeeds

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 10

Tesla Model S Performance

Tesla Model S Performance

The failure of Fisker Automotive is well documented, as is the current success of Tesla Motors.  Both are startup automakers.  Both focus on breakthrough technology.  Both deliver a type of vehicle that the world has never seen before.  So, why is one failing while the other continues to rack up achievements and to hit milestones that point towards continued success?

Fisker Karma

Fisker Karma

The answer isn’t entirely obvious, but as Christian Science Monitor points out, it could be a case of form versus function.

For Fisker, form comes first.  The Karma is a visually stunning automobile, but design alone doesn’t make for an extraordinary machine.  Fisker’s problem may well lie in the automaker’s inability to correctly implement technology (as is evidenced in several negative reviews of the Karma, in particular how its EREV system is nowhere near as refined as the one found in the Chevy Volt).

Beyond technology, Fisker had issues with production quality, which led to a whole host of reviews calling the Fisker more a prototype-level vehicle than a production-ready automobile.

Consumer Reports Had to Have its Faulty Fisker Karma Towed Almost Immediately After Purchasing It.

Consumer Reports Had to Have its Faulty Fisker Karma Towed Almost Immediately After Purchasing It.

But perhaps Fisker’s biggest struggle was in figuring out how to manufacture the Karma at a site it doesn’t even own.  This meant that Fisker had to outsource virtually every component that went into its Karma and that’s a challenge even for established automakers.  Supplier shortages and quality control became major issues and the faulty batteries from A123 Systems only highlighted this extensive problem.

It’s hard to deny that the Karma is one of today’s most attractive automobiles, but when what’s on the inside falls short, design alone in today’s competitive industry just isn’t enough.

For Tesla Motors, the story is the opposite.

Tesla Model S "Skateboard" of Electric Components and Vehicle Platform

Tesla Model S “Skateboard” of Electric Components and Vehicle Platform

Tesla focused first on perfecting its electric powertrain.  Once that was perfect, Tesla fitted it into a Lotus Elise.  While we’d say the Elise is stylish, Tesla didn’t waste time designing it.  Instead, Tesla focused on advancing its core electric technology as Roadster sales helped to keep the automaker afloat.

That core technology was perfected before Tesla set out on the arduous task of designing a vehicle from the ground up.  The result was the Model S.  Sure, it’s visually attractive to most consumers, but the real beauty of the Model S is underneath.  It works and aside from a few issues here and there, most Model S owners have few complaints.  In fact, almost all of the reviews out there praise the job Tesla did on the Model S.  It performs as a production vehicle should and its build quality is right up there with established makes.  Almost never is there a complaint about the Model S electric powertrain, which is Tesla’s bread and butter.

If the Model S wasn’t somewhat attractive, then we’d say “Don’t judge a book by its cover” or “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

As for the Fisker Karma, a fitting phrase might be that its “Beauty is only skin deep.”

There’s still plenty of time left for Tesla to fail, but the automaker seems to have taken the right path for success

via Christian Science Monitor

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10 responses to "Why Fisker Fails as Tesla Motors Succeeds"

  1. David Murray says:

    I hope all of the sales that would go to the Karma end up going to the Model-S. Not that I’m glad to see Fisker fail, but if they are to fail I would hope the lost sales are transferred to another EV company.

  2. It’s a bit early to call Tesla a success, isn’t it? Let’s see if they can survive a year and be cash flow positive, and grow their sales.

    1. Aaron says:

      They’ve already survived several years and are now cash-flow positive.

    2. Michael says:

      Tesla has already survived since 2005 (when it was established). It was founded years before Fisker, had head-start on technology and by now is out of the “valley of death”. It has been close to bankruptcy a couple of times – but by now it had $200 mil in reserves and is already cash-flow positive as of Q1 2013. If it is to fail – it must be sometime truly cataclysmic at this stage (earthquake destroying Tesla factory, total recall for all 8000 vehicles sold so far, etc).

  3. Michael says:

    It is always funny how Fisker automotive with about 100 employees and no factory of their own is compared to Tesla Motors with almost 3000 employees and owning former NUMMI factory capable of cranking out a million cars per year.

    Just because Fisker produced a crappy hybrid – it is automatically lumped together with Tesla?

  4. Herm says:

    “It’s hard to deny that the Karma is one of today’s most attractive automobiles, but when what’s on the inside falls short, design alone in today’s competitive industry just isn’t enough.”

    Amen

  5. Bill Howland says:

    The Karma had a bunch of embarrasing errors, starting with blatently selling sex in their brouchures, to unforgivable design problems such as no fuse in the cooling fan circuit causing garages to burn down.

    They just needed 1 or 2 key people with half a brain to prevent these easily preventable errors. Were the 100 employees working for them really this clueless?

    Anyway, I “almost” bought one, seeing as I loved the basic car. It was only the unfinished design aspect of the car that made me hold back.

    Its a shame another nice car almost became mainstream, but failed due to stupid reasons.

  6. Priusmaniac says:

    What I note is that both companies have missed the accessible Sedan car market. Perhaps it is OK to start with a high price vehicle but now time has been long and westill wait for a volt priced sedan to be placed on the market.

  7. kdawg says:

    I blame Justin Bieber.

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