Fisker Karma Goes Up In Flames As Owner Shops (Update)

AUG 12 2012 BY JAY COLE 4

On Friday in Woodside, California, a $100,000 Fisker extended range Karma burned while its owner shop for groceries.

And unlike an earlier story about a Nissan LEAF that found itself unfortunately scorched through no fault of its own, early reports point to a self-inflicted, spontaneous combustion event for the Karma.  The second such report this year.

Thankfully, the event does not appear to be related to the electric drive, or battery compenents of the car supplied by US Chinese owned A123.  The fire itself looks to have broken out in, or around, the front driver’s side, as illustrated by the YouTube video posted below:

2012 Fisker Karma After Being Extinguished (Photo via Jalopnik)

No one was injured during the blaze, as Woodside firefighters put on the blaze in a fairly casual manner.

Investigators are on the job determining the cause of the blaze, and Fisker has already issued a statement, along with supplying thier own independent fire expert to assist:

Fisker Automotive can confirm that one of its Karma models was involved in a vehicle fire during a roadside incident in Woodside, California. No injuries were reported; the vehicle was parked; and the fire was extinguished safely by the emergency services.

Fisker understands damage was limited to the driver’s side front corner of the car, away from the lithium ion battery and electric motors. The car was not being charged at the time.

We have more than 1,000 Karmas on the road with a cumulative 2 million miles on them. There are more than 185,000 highway vehicle fires in the US every year. In an electric vehicle, immediate suspicion is focused on the battery and high voltage components. The location of the damage to the vehicle in this incident appears to rule out that suspicion. Fisker has not had any battery or high voltage fire incidents with any of its vehicles.

Safety remains our primary concern at Fisker, and is integral to the design, engineering and technology of the Karma, a model in which we have absolute confidence. Fisker staff have been in contact with the customer and are investigating the cause of this incident. We are also employing an independent fire expert to assist the investigation. A further statement will be issued once the investigation has been completed and the cause determined.

Poor Routing May Have Caused Fisker Karma To Catch Fire (Photo via Jalopnik)

This is the second Fisker Karma to be destroyed in a similar manner as this past May, a Karma was implicated for a fire in Texas after its own had just finished driving it home and parked it before it all started to smoke and catch fire.

Fisker had previously issued a recall to correct a potential fire hazard related to the improper positioning of hose clamps that could cause a coolant leak which affected 239 units at the end of 2011. Additional cars were also recalled this past June.  There has been no information regarding if this particular Karma had been recalled, or if that warranty service had been performed on it.

The GM-sourced 2.0 liter engine does not have a traditional exhaust location, and there has been some suggestion that due to the cramped quarters in the front of the car, and the fact it does indeed vent in front of the doors (where this fire and the earlier one in Texas seems to have originated), insufficient heat shielding could be in play.


A further update from Fisker on Monday, August 13th:

“Fisker engineers, working with independent investigators from Pacific Rim Investigative Group, have begun preliminary examination and testing on the Karma involved in a fire in Woodside, California Friday, August 10.

Evidence revealed thus far supports the fact that the ignition source was not the Lithium-ion battery pack, new technology components or unique exhaust routing.

The area of origin for the fire was determined to be outside the engine compartment.  There was no damage to the passenger compartment and there were no injuries.

Continued investigative efforts will be primarily focused within the specific area of origin, located forward of the driver’s side front tire.  Further details will be announced after a full report is completed.”

Fisker looks to again be confirming that none of the uniquely electric componenets are the cause, but now is including the exhaust routing itself.

Two main things of interest in this statement to be focused on (in our opinion) is the lead disclaimer of “evidence revealed thus far” and Fisker saying that this will probably be the last update from the company until the official report is out.

Updated: Monday, August 13th, 2012  9:30am

Photos via Jalopnik

Categories: Fisker / Karma


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4 Comments on "Fisker Karma Goes Up In Flames As Owner Shops (Update)"

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I don’t like the location of the exhaust.


MOD EDIT: Nice find. (other good suspension walkaround shots at the above link for those interested)

Man, my new Fisker is ONE HOT CAR! —- ehhhh, perhaps too hot, if you get what I mean…. Fisker is making me cringe. These cars are not cheap — Their quality is suspect, what with first customer cars arriving with panel gaps you could drive a bus through… The product development seems like it’s: “Give the customer the car, and we’ll discover the flaws later”. The most troubling part is that, as an “EVer” ( Electric Vehicle – Extended Range ) it’s gonna get the media barrage of “electric cars are dangerous!”. Let’s remember there are huge cartels and giant economic mechanisms, paid-off politicians and massive lobbies all interested in killing the electric car. Every time a LEAF’s battery gives it’s customer 65% of the lifespan they were promised, and every Karma that burns down a house – is a nail in the coffin of EV adoption for the masses and fodder for the powers that be to blaspheme the electric car. Heinrich was in a pinch to shoot out the Karma. The government loans were rescinded as Solyndra folded and the attacks began. Fisker’s machine was not fully developed – as is being plainly shown today, and it… Read more »

I can almost hear Leno’s routine: Wow, Karma can be a bitch. Actually this is tragic … it wasn’t the chrome one. Etc.

On a serious note, Fisker might be hurting themselves with their defensive PR stance. For example, mentioning that only 1/500 Karmas have spontaneously ignited so far doesn’t really give that warm & fuzzy feeling. If you apply that ratio to say a Chevy Cruze, then over 500 should have burst into flames by now. And I don’t think the 185,000 fires/year stat is relevant, since I assume the vast majority of those involved old cars or crash damage.

You’d be surprised regarding the vehicle fire statistics per year. Just this year I’ve heard of roughly 6 vehicle fires, all traditional gas vehicles, on fire without having been in any accident.

A friend of mine on Facebook even posted pictures of one they came across on the highway by chance.

Gas cars will always be more dangerous than electric cars, all other things being equal.