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Fisker Karma ignites into flames while owner is in grocery store

The incident occurs just three months after a Karma was blamed for causing a Houston house fire.

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A Fisker Karma hybrid-electric luxury vehicle caught on fire on Friday in Woodside, California, reports Jalopnik. The incident occurred in a grocery store parking lot while the owner was inside purchasing groceries. Upon returning outside, the owner was greeted with smoke exiting from the vehicle. The owner proceeded to call the manufacturer, who instructed him to call the police.

Exclusive pictures from Jalopnik illustrate that the fire extensively damaged the vehicle’s front left quadrant. While the cause of the fire is yet to be determined, the vehicle’s unique exhaust location may be involved. The Karma’s exhaust is directed to small outlets located in the front fenders, instead of the rear like a normal car.

A similar fire occurred back in May when a new Fisker Karma was blamed for causing a Houston house fire. Although early reports suggested that the Karma’s lithium-ion battery was the culprit, a probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the battery was fully intact and in full-working condition.

Fisker issued a fire-related vehicle recall back in late 2011, which involved 239 Karmas. The December recall was due to an improperly-positioned hose clamp that could let coolant leak into the battery compartment. Consequently, this could cause an electrical short and potentially start a fire. In June, Fisker added 19 vehicles to the recall, bringing the total to 258.

Fisker released the following statement to Jalopnik concerning Friday’s incident:

“We have confidence in the Fisker Karma. Safety is our primary concern and our Fisker staff have been in contact with the customer and are investigating the cause. We are also employing an independent fire investigation representative to assist in the root cause analysis. A further statement will be issued once the root cause has been determined.”

For those interested, the event was caught on video and is available to watch HERE.

Source: Jalopnik

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John Goreham    August 11, 2012 - 11:18AM

There have been about 800 Karmas delivered to customers at this point (I am pretty sure that is accurate). So that means that about one out of every 400 burns up. At that same rate of failure a popular model that sells 200,00 units per year (and there are many such as the Camry, Ford F-150 etc) would mean about 500 fires like this per year. If that happened NHTSA and congress would shut that manufacturer down in 10 minutes. By the way, the actual cost to produce each Karma when all of the landed costs are considered is about $1million.

David Herron    August 11, 2012 - 11:40AM

In reply to by John Goreham

No, Fisker claimed, at the end of May, to have delivered over 1000 Karma's.

From the pictures this was clearly more related to the gasoline engine - on the fiskerbuzz forum they're speculating on insulation, or the fuse box - and note that both this and the earlier fire was an instance where the Karma had just been driven, was parked, and not plugged in for charging.

There are over 250,000 car fires a year - they're so common in gasoline cars that the fires simply go unreported.

How many recalls does NHTSA issue for fire safety issues? Lots.

Where did you get the $1 million number? Fisker, as a startup company, doesn't have the deep pockets required to absorb that cost. At the sales figure they quote, over 1,000 delivered, $1 million per car would be $1 billion total, which equals the amount the company has raised from private investors. That means if the Karma cost $1 million per car they would have spent the whole of the capital they'd raised on building cars and have nothing left over. Hence, the cost per Karma cannot be $1 million.

Nicolas Zart    August 11, 2012 - 12:59PM

In reply to by David Herron

Yes, drawing any conclusions at this stage is a little premature. If it cost $1 million to build a Karma, the company would have had a harder time than it is already having. Considering how many gasoline cars go up in smoke a year, 2 out of 1,000, especially considering that the first case was not really Fisker's fault, per se, is not too bad. When you take into consideration the car was out on the streets in such short time, with this fairly new type of technology, It's nothing to sneer at.

I think, again we need to wait and see what the final reports will have to say to know the truth. Remember the first case and what the media said? remember the Chinese electric taxi that went up in flame? We need to wait and see.

Aaron Turpen    August 12, 2012 - 5:34AM

In reply to by David Herron

The likely cause of at least three Karma fires so far (including the one in Texas) is the placement of the exhaust directly behind the front tire. I've seen this conclusion drawn by more than one analyst/investigator and it appears to be a serious design flaw in the car's ICE exhaust system.

All of the fires thus blamed were in hot climates (generally dry, southern states) on hot days (no precipitation) and after the car had been driven (hot tires). Seems to make sense.

David Herron    August 12, 2012 - 12:28PM

In reply to by Aaron Turpen

Um, Woodside CA is about 10 miles from where I live. We're not exactly a hot climate. It gets really really dry during the summer because it doesn't rain between April and November. Hot? Nope.

The units we're talking about - exhaust system, insulation, fuse box, etc ... these have nothing to do with the electric drive part of the vehicle. Hence, these fires are the same as other gasoline engine car fires.

Nicolas Zart    August 13, 2012 - 3:06AM

In reply to by Aaron Turpen

One simplistic conclusion, from the little bits I can gather is that Fisker was pressured to bring out the Karma quickly in order to appease investors. This usually has quality consequences. It's too bad because it's a great car. I spent a few moments at its wheels and he really struck a great balance between feel, sensory experience and performance. I really felt I was in a futuristic Maserati Quattroporte.