Fisker buyers were dazzled by the electric vehicle startup’s sustainability focus, its debut SUV’s dashing looks and the allure of driving something few others even knew existed. Now some likely wish they could turn back the clock and buy literally anything else. 

After months of flailing, Fisker filed for bankruptcy protection last week, leaving customers who plunked down some $70,000 for their Ocean EVs (and are often still on the hook for their loans) feeling frustrated, angry and duped. What may be most unsettling is they have no clue what happens next. 

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EV startup Fisker goes bankrupt

Fisker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week, just about a year after its debut EV, the Ocean SUV, hit the road. The company reportedly struggled with a problematic product and mismanagement. The downfall leaves the thousands of people who have bought Oceans wondering what happens next. 

“Now we all own cars that were manufactured by a company that has filed for bankruptcy,” Cristian Fleming, an Ocean owner in New York, told InsideEVs. “Nobody really knows what that means.” 

If Fisker doesn’t rise from the ashes of Chapter 11 restructuring—and some kind of financial lifeline seems increasingly unlikely—will customers be able to get their cars fixed easily over the long run? Will they ever receive the missing features they were assured would be beamed to their cars via future software updates, such as adaptive cruise control or lane-change assist? If something breaks in a month or a year from now, where will replacement parts or bug fixes come from? What about warranty repairs and insurance? Will the 4G connection that enables functions like navigation just go dark one day? 

That’s just some of what Fisker owners have expressed concern about in recent conversations with InsideEVs and on online forums. 

Ocean Owners Worry About Parts, Software Updates and Key Fobs

Plenty of car brands have closed up shop entirely or stopped selling cars in the U.S. Consider Saab, DeLorean, Suzuki, Pontiac or Packard. But Fisker flamed out so quickly that it has put customers in a particularly nasty bind.

The startup leaves behind both an unfinished car and an underdeveloped support system for it, making the scramble for answers that much more pressing. Had Fisker released a more battle-tested product and created a more robust service operation, it arguably could have avoided this mess altogether. 

Fisker Ocean Factory

Moreover, the Fisker Ocean is very different from any of the “orphaned” cars that came before it. While a Bricklin SV-1’s owner probably doesn’t have the easiest time finding parts, that car still depends purely on mechanical repairs to stay on the road. The Ocean, however, is underpinned by modern connected-car software. If that software or the network behind it aren’t maintained properly, the Ocean could lose key functions—much like how older smartphones are hamstrung by the lack of a 3G network.  

Plus, software hasn’t ever been the Ocean’s strong suit. In the year since the Ocean went on sale, many owners have grappled with all sorts of software glitches and hardware issues. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened four investigations into the Ocean, including over a braking malfunction. Fisker recently issued a recall to address a defect that can lead to loss of power. Bankruptcy leaves some owners wondering whether their cars will ever function as advertised. Even if their current issues somehow get resolved by Fisker’s skeleton service department, some worry about more problems popping up. 

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One owner, who asked to remain anonymous for personal reasons, said he finally got a Fisker technician to order him a new infotainment screen, which had been going black occasionally, and door handles, which were brittle and cracking. Now he’s not sure if those parts will ever arrive. And besides, he said, that just scratches the surface of the issues he’s reported to Fisker. 

“There are so many things I’ve sent in tickets for, I can’t even in my mind remember all of them,” the owner said. “Is all of that just gone?” 

He said he’s hoping “something magical happens”—that an experienced carmaker takes the reins and finishes the Ocean’s software. Aside from bug fixes, he’d love to finally receive adaptive cruise control, a fairly commonplace feature these days. 

Fisker Ocean

Fisker Ocean

This year Fisker has laid off most of its workforce, including large numbers of service technicians. In the last few weeks, owners have reported waiting on Fisker’s customer service line for hours only to be disconnected. They say their emails and social media messages have gone unanswered. In its final months before bankruptcy, Fisker began pivoting away from Tesla-like direct-to-consumer sales and toward a conventional dealership model. It’s possible that the handful of dealerships that have sprung up will provide service into the future even if Fisker ceases to operate, but that’s not clear yet.

Tracking down basic replacement parts was a nightmare even while Fisker was still fully operational. Fisker leadership believed the Ocean would be so well-built that a stockpile of parts in the U.S. wouldn’t be necessary, InsideEVs reported previously. As a result, Ocean owners have waited weeks or months for things like windshields and bumpers. Going forward, some worry that a fender bender or faulty component could render their car undriveable. Customers were also only provided one key fob, which has been prone to issues and ranks at the top of many owners’ lists of gripes.

“​​I’ll keep driving mine until I can’t anymore…which could be for an idiotic reason like the fob breaks. Or the windshield,” wrote one Redditor. “Super weird when the best case scenario would be having someone else run into the car and it get totaled out.”

Some owners are in better spirits than others, particularly those whose experiences have been smooth thus far. Andrew Bock, a business owner in Northern California, loves his Ocean and went into the purchase understanding the risks, he told InsideEVs. He hasn’t experienced any major issues, but he is concerned about losing internet-enabled features or his key fob. He hopes Fisker can dole out more keys to owners as part of its bankruptcy. 

“I’m disappointed, but I’m not, like, ‘the world is falling,’” Bock said, acknowledging that he’s probably in the minority. 

In general, Ocean owners say they really enjoy the car when it works. But those with broken cars are in panic mode.

A Broken EV And No Fix In Sight

Mike Satz, who works in sales support in New Jersey, bought his Ocean prepared for some early hiccups. But he also expected Fisker to be around to iron out those issues as they arose. Instead, he is sitting on a vehicle that won’t turn on and he hasn’t been able to get in touch with Fisker’s customer service, he told InsideEVs. Upon hearing the bankruptcy news, he first felt angry, and then hopeless, he said. 

“It’s just this whirlwind of emotions,” he said. “Everybody that has a Fisker at this point has to understand that this is a really bad situation to be in.”

He wonders whether he should sell his car for parts, given the shortage of components. He said he feels let down by the startup, which devalued his car by slashing prices, abruptly canceled roadside assistance and saddled him with a car he is paying for but can’t drive. 

“All these little things add up to just aggravate and stick it to the customer that actually supported them through all this,” Satz said. 

2023 Fisker Ocean One auctioned off on Cars&Bids 22

Holly Affleck, a business executive in Fort Worth, Texas, told InsideEVs that her Ocean has been stuck in a limp mode, wherein it can’t go faster than about 30 mph, since late March. Fisker told her she needed a new cooling pump but has not been able to provide one or fix her car, she said. She entered into arbitration against Fisker in the hopes of forcing it to buy back her Ocean and won the case in June—just in time for the company to go bankrupt. 

She doubts Fisker will ever refund her and is resigned to fixing her car any way she can. (Indeed, in a recent budget filed in Delaware bankruptcy court, Fisker did not allot any funds for vehicle buybacks.) But the hunt for parts has been difficult.

“Without the ability to get parts, we’re all in limbo,” Affleck said. “I am sick that there are not greater consumer protections for likely the second-largest purchase of any American in their life.”

She and others said Fisker should have been more forthcoming about its financial struggles earlier on. If buyers had better understood what was just around the bend, they could have sold their Oceans when they were worth more or backed out of the purchase altogether, they said. In recent bankruptcy court filings, Fisker described being in financial distress as early as last August, right around the time that it hosted a splashy event previewing three future models.

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Artin Boghouzian, an attorney with CA Lemon Law Firm in California, said he recently sent Fisker demand letters on behalf of 11 Ocean owners who claim their cars are defective. The startup’s legal team hasn’t responded to them in weeks, he said. With Fisker bankrupt, getting any kind of settlement for his clients just got much harder, as they’d have to pay his fees just to wind up in a long line of creditors who are owed hundreds of millions of dollars. He said his clients are “furious, upset, defeated, let down, feeling like they got screwed over because they did.”

“You’re dealing with people that are stuck. They got screwed. They have no recourse,” Boghouzian said. “They’re sitting with a brick in their garage that they don’t even want to look at anymore.” 

Normally, automakers are open to resolving Lemon Law claims quickly, he said, whether that means buying back a faulty car or fixing it and compensating the driver for their troubles. 

2023 Fisker Ocean One auctioned off on Cars&Bids 4

Ocean Owners Step Up Where Fisker Failed

Fisker owners are in the dark right now about what the future holds. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the firm is in talks to sell the some 4,000 remaining unsold Oceans to a leasing company in New York that specializes in Uber and Lyft vehicles. To some owners, that’s a glimmer of hope that they won’t be abandoned entirely.

But with Fisker on life support and running out of options, Ocean owners are taking charge of their lousy situation as best they can. Some just launched the Fisker Owners Association, which aims to keep Oceans roadworthy as long as possible—even if Fisker itself doesn’t make it. Its members are working to secure a healthy supply of parts, publish do-it-yourself fixes and advocate for the interests of owners during Fisker’s bankruptcy discussions. 

The group is fighting for their warranties, for the continued availability of parts and 4G connectivity and for ongoing maintenance of the IT infrastructure that technicians connect to when they service Oceans. They want Fisker to deliver all the features they were promised, or at the very least pay owners their value. 

In the meantime, Fleming, one of the organization’s founders, has a message for Henrik Fisker, Fisker’s namesake and CEO: “Think about the people who bought your cars.”

Have information to share about Fisker or your Ocean experience? Contact the author at tim.levin@insideevs.com

Image credit: Ralph Hermens; Fisker Inc.

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