A123 Systems finds potential safety issue in Fisker Karma batteries

Article by Christian Andrei, on December 26, 2011

A123 Systems Inc. found a "potential safety issue" in the batteries that it provides to Fisker Automotive Inc.’s electric vehicles. The coolant may leak due to “misaligned” hose clamps that are part of the internal cooling system of its batteries supplied to Fisker. The other customers of A123, based in Waltham, Mass., include General Motors Co. and Daimler AG.

In a memo on A123's investor-relations Web site, CEO David Vieau said that the leak may result to an electrical short circuit. He wrote that the repair for the fewer than 50 cars has started.

He also said that A123 anticipates that there will be a "minimal financial impact" and he also clarified that its relationship with Fisker "remains strong.”

Anaheim, Calif.-based Fisker is increasing the U.S. deliveries of its Karma plug-in hybrid sedans, which are priced at $102,000 each. When CEO Henrik Fisker was interviewed on Dec. 21, he said that 225 units have been sent to dealers while 1,200 units are now "in the pipeline."

Fisker, which also designs cars for Aston Martin and BMW, said that currently, 25 Karma units are produced each day. Next year, this may increase to 60 a day. The battery packs for GM's Chevrolet Spark electric subcompact, which goes on sale in 2013, will come from A123. Since 2008, A123 has posted quarterly losses. It went public in September 2009.

The new Fisker Karma can run entirely on electric power, which is supplied by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The Karma can run for up to 80 kilometers (50 miles), and it can run 403 kilometers (250 miles) more with its 175 kW generator that is driven by a 2.0-liter, direct-injection, and turbocharged gasoline-fueled engine. Therefore, the Karma's total range in between recharge and refuel is up to 483 kilometers or 300 miles.

With a $95,900 U.S. MSRP or Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price before $7,500 of federal tax incentives (or a suggested retail price of €85,500 in Europe), the Fisker Karma is world-class and can compete with other conventional luxury sedans like the BMW 750i ActiveHybrid, the Porsche Panamera S, the Audi A8 TDI, and the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid.

Additionally, the Fisker Karma offers great value over super sedans such as the $200,000 Aston Martin Rapide and the $120,000 Maserati Quattroporte. Needless to say, the Fisker Karma is a truly responsible and practical choice for buyers of luxury cars because of its terrific economy and its emission-free driving capacity.

Fisker Automotive is a new automotive company and the Karma is its very first car. The carmaker has adopted the Sustainable and Accountable Design principle, representing a significant leap forward for the manufacturing industry. However, despite being a new industry player, Fisker has seen that the process of designing, developing, building, marketing, and distributing vehicles needs extensive energy and resources.

Yet the company has grabbed the opportunity to better this process, with a vision of what more carmakers can accomplish and what can be expected of them. Fisker is striving to take the lead in accountability and sustainability by persistently pursuing new ways to reduce carbon footprint, to minimize other environmental impact, and to raise fuel efficiency.

The Karma and all Fisker vehicles in the future are going to be marketed and serviced through a worldwide network of established and reliable retailers. There are already 45 locations in the United States, and around the same number of locations is lined up for the European market.

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