Fisker Fights Back

Last month, Fisker Automotive was suddenly the focus of attention not for its products but because it had received a $529-million loan from the Department of Energy as part of its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program.

Last month, Fisker Automotive was suddenly the focus of attention not for its products but because it had received a $529-million loan from the Department of Energy as part of its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. The loan was specifically for the manufacture of vehicles in a former GM assembly plant in Wilmington, Delaware. The narrative was one that equated Fisker with Solyndra, in large part because it was discovered—gasp!—that Fisker was having its Karma extended-range electric vehicle built for it by Valmet Automotive in Uusikaupunki, Finland, a specialty builder that also produces cars for the likes of Porsche.

While this was treated like the discovery that Elvis is part of a Wii bowling league in a suburban Kansas City senior center, in point of fact:

1. Fisker and Valmet had entered into a partnership agreement back in 2008, nearly two years before the loan agreement, and that the cars were being manufactured by Valmet wasn’t a secret to anyone who knows anything about the industry

2. The plan all along has been to produce another Fisker model, the Project Nina, in Delaware, not the Karma

3. The plan—always subject to change given the vagaries of (a) trying to advance technology and (b) the market—is to go into production in Wilmington at the end of 2012

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Seems like Fisker can’t catch a break, because hard on the heels of that was a controversy predicated on the official EPA rating for the Karma. This indicates that the car has a 52 mpg-equivalent in city and highway driving, including 32 miles of all-electric range and 20 mpg when the engine is running.

So Fisker went to Germany and had the Technischer Überwachungs Verein (TÜV) run tests on the performance of the car (let’s face it: that sounds far more technical than “Environmental Protection Agency”) and it discovered that it has an all electric range of 51 miles, not 32, and that it has an extended range fuel economy of 112 mpg, but when driven in Sport mode, achieves 26 mpg, which is better than the 20 mpg measured by the EPA.

Stated Henrik Fisker, “We are naturally very pleased with the TÜV results, which show we have delivered better than our anticipated fuel efficiency figures.”

But odds are good that the EPA sticker is going to remain the EPA sticker.

This whole thing misses a point about the Karma which is based on two figures:

1. 403

2. 108,900

The first number is the combined horsepower for the Karma, based on the 260-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and the dual 201.5 hp liquid-cooled AC permanent magnet synchronous motors. According to Fisker, the car goes from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds.

The second number is what you can pay for a Karma in U.S. dollars.

Seriously: do you think anyone who is going to buy a 400-hp car for $100K is going to worry about what the EPA or even the TÜV has to say?