At the end of last week, Fisker Automotive recalled 239 Karmas due to a misaligned hose clamp to the cooling system on its A123 System battery packs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says the recall includes all 2012 Karmas produced between July 1-Nov. 1, and cautions the problem could lead to a coolant leak and even a fire.

Of these cars, it’s believed fewer than 40 have actually been delivered, and the rest are in inventory.

The recall is an amplification of the situation that was preceded by a Dec. 21 notice that the hose clamp problem existed.



 

NHTSA is not giving Volt-levels of scrutiny at this point, and Fisker says it hasn’t received any warranty claims or other reports, let alone a crash test resulting in fire.

“We identified very quickly what the problem was, and there have been no incidents whatsoever,” Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher was quoted as saying last week. “It’s really important that we actually fixed everything before it became an issue.”

Similarly, A123 Systems says the problem is nothing to worry about.

"We expect this situation to have minimal financial impact on A123, and our relationship with Fisker remains strong,” wrote A123 CEO David Vieau in a consumer notice.

Although too soon to tell, despite the alarming word “fire” related to “coolant” being repeated by NHTSA so soon after similar Volt reports, if a Karma actually did spill coolant and overheat, a potentially resultant fire would not be the same as the Volt has experienced.

Worries about Volt fires follow side-impact crash tests in which the Volt’s LG Chem-celled battery pack was structurally compromised and left charged. It is believed that dried-out coolant might have contributed to the first post-crash fire three weeks later, but that theory is awaiting official determination.

Whether this distinction is good or not remains to be seen. Critics might also say now there is a further way for electric vehicle batteries to catch fire – if NHTSA’s contention that risk of fire is correct.



 

In any event, it cannot be seen as good news that the only other extended-range electric vehicle for sale in America also has a battery issue that could lead to a fire.

A few weeks ago when the Volt news involved utterance of the word “fire,” it affected some with less than full understanding like an exploded firecracker would affect a flock of geese.

This was evidenced not just by the flurry of over-reactive Volt fire news reports, but a survey by CNW Marketing of more than 3,800 U.S. buyers showed a decline in interest for the Volt following NHTSA’s probe into post-crash battery fires.

On the other hand, some observers have demonstrated a brief attention span as ostensibly bad news comes, goes, and is forgotten – especially if replaced by better news to update the addled minds of a public in the throes of information overload, contradictory reports, and unsure what to believe.

But also still lingering is news that Fisker has had to defend itself against unfounded concerns over taking a $529 million U.S. Energy Department low-interest loan and producing its cars in Finland.

And more likely to stick is criticism that prior to launching the Karma, it inched up its prices from a projected $80,000 range to low six figures just as it was making its first customer deliveries.

The company has had delays along the way for a variety of reasons, but perhaps it is just as well that only around 40 cars have been delivered to date, instead of the 3,000 worldwide deliveries by year’s end it projected just a few months ago.



 

As of Dec. 21, Fisker had reportedly shipped 225 Karmas to dealers and had 1,200 “in the pipeline,” said CEO Henrik Fisker at the time.

Fortunately for Fisker – and as those more knowledgeable about this technology will recognize – its latest bump in the road appears comparatively small, and can be fixed without re-engineering before more Karmas are delivered – and of interest to GM watchers – before Chevrolet launches its Spark EV which will also rely on A123 batteries.

Further, those belonging to the socioeconomic bracket actually in the market for a Karma for the most part already understand its technology better than average, so we shall see whether this recall for a bug is more than a blip in the scheme of things.

Automotive News

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