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Fisker blames faulty fan for fire

Bad Karma: Fisker says its electric drivetrain and battery pack are not to blame for a fire in a plug-in Karma in California earlier this month.

Plug-in Fisker Karma to be recalled to fix faulty fan after Californian fire

20 Aug 2012

A FAULTY cooling fan has been blamed for at least one recent fire in plug-in Fisker Karma range-extender petrol-electric cars in the United States, prompting the American company to recall the vehicles to replace the part.

However, the cause of another fire, in a Karma garaged in Texas in May, remains unclear and the subject of further investigation.

Fisker Automotive says its lithium-ion batteries and electric powertrain have been cleared of any fault in a recent fire involving a Karma on a California roadside, badly damaging the vehicle on August 10.

The company says an investigation by its engineers and independent fire forensic experts traced the blaze to a low-temperature cooling fan in the front left of the car, forward of the front wheel.

Published images taken by passers-by appear to support that theory, showing flames engulfing that portion the car, well away from batteries stored under the floor of the vehicle.

“The final conclusion was that this sealed component had an internal fault that caused it to fail, overheat and start a slow-burning fire,” Fisker said in a statement.

“Fisker has today voluntarily elected to conduct a recall with respect to this cooling fan unit.

 center imageFrom top: Fisker's Tony Posawatz Fisker Atlantic.

“The company is working with the responsible supplier and this recall campaign is not expected to have a material financial impact on Fisker.”

The company says that, as well as replacing the fan, an extra fuse will be fitted for added protection.

Although the number of vehicles recalled was not announced by Fisker, it claims to have sold more than 1000 Karmas since December.

Fisker executive chairman and co-founder Henrik Fisker said the company was committed to responding swiftly and decisively to events such as this to ensure total customer satisfaction.

“This incident resulted from a single, faulty component, not our unique EV powertrain or the engineering of the Karma,” he said.

“As this situation demonstrates, Fisker Automotive is dedicated to doing whatever is necessary to address safety and quality concerns.”

California-based Fisker launched the range-extender Karma in December 2011, but immediately ran into problems when battery coolant was found to be leaking on vehicles being built at the Valmet factory in Finland where the cars are made under contract.

Because of the risk of an electric short-circuit and fire in the battery pack, the first 239 Karmas were recalled by Fisker.

The Texas fire is still the subject of speculation, with Fisker saying the details of the blaze were “not in the public domain”.

The Karma coupe allegedly caught fire in a garage, not only badly damaging the Karma but two other cars – a Honda NSX and Mercedes-Benz roadster – and the house as well.

The owner of the car said he had driven the car into his garage in suburban Houston three minutes before, without plugging it in.

Fisker later released a statement saying the lithium-ion battery pack had been found intact and did not appear to be a contributing factor.

Fires are not Fisker’s only issue, with finance problems also besetting the company.

Earlier this year, Fisker was denied access to more than half of $529 million ($A506m) in government loans it had been relying on, and is reportedly now seeking about $150 million in venture capital.

The financial upheaval has forced Fisker to shelve plans to build a second model, the Atlantic, in Delaware.

The company is now looking to former General Motors executive Tony Posawatz to guide it through its current issues.

The former head of GM’s Volt program has been appointed Fisker Automotive chief executive officer, replacing Tom LaSorda.

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