Sometimes a journalist has to work and dig for a story. Other times the carcass of a Fisker happens to be smoldering in the parking lot you've just pulled into.
I was going out to eat in Woodside, California on Friday night when I spied the smoldering carcass of this Fisker in the Roberts Market parking lot. I spoke with the owner of this particular Fisker, Rudy Burger, a managing partner at Woodside Capital Partners (WCP is not an investor in Fisker). He said that the car was smoking when he pulled it into the parking lot where the fire proceeded to melt the front left side of the vehicle body. Burger was unscathed.
Burger pried off the Fisker emblem on the front of the car as a souvenir for his daughter. He noted that the car "drove like a tank," was less fun to drive than his previous ride, a Porsche, and admitted that his ownership experience was less than perfectly satisfying, even prior to this event.
Nevertheless he recognized the perils of being an early adopter of new automotive technology and admired the sleek styling of the vehicle.
Jalopnik posted a video of the fire courtesy of Aaron Wood. Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing at Edmunds.com, notes, "The exhaust in the Karma doesn't exit from the rear like a normal car. The hybrid has a four-cylinder 2.0-liter engine from GM that charges the batteries that power the car and the exhaust exits in front of the doors."
Autopia got a response from the manufacturer:
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 U.S. 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 it 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.
In May of this year, a Fisker set fire to an owner's garage in Texas.
Fisker Automotive recently crossed the $1 billion mark in investment. The plug-in hybrid automaker recently raised $392 million in a financing round that's aiming for $500 million in new investment, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That's $129 million in new investment since February, when Fisker said it had raised $263 million of a planned $300 million round.
The new investment from Advanced Equities comes amidst a set of struggles for the startup, including two recalls and news of stalled production of its high-end Karma plug-in hybrid sports car. The company has had its share of challenges of late, including:
- The company has stopped work at its Delaware Project Nina plant and laid off 66 workers, and is renegotiating its $529 million Department of Energy loan amidst news that it has been blocked from accessing the money since May.
- Fisker has issued a recall for the Karma for a battery problem. Autoblog reported that Consumer Reports had its anonymously purchased Karma break down during calibration tests, before they even had a chance to test-drive it.
- Co-founder Henrik Fisker was moved to the role of Executive Chairman of the firm, while Tom LaSorda was appointed as CEO and Vice Chairman of the Board last month. LaSorda was formerly CEO, President and Vice Chairman of the Chrysler Group and has also held executive positions at General Motors. Ray Lane, former Chairman of the Board, will take a "lead director role," according to a press release from the firm.
Fisker is also tied to the struggling and recently rescued battery maker A123. A VC colleague noted that Fisker's "optics" were just plain bad -- referring to, amongst other things, the small investment in Fisker from the Qatar Investment Authority.
Kleiner Perkins partner Trae Vassallo takes credit for originating this deal with her investment firm. Other investors in Fisker include Palo Alto Investors, A123 Systems, and Ace Investments.
Jeff St. John contributed to this story.