| DETROIT, Sept 25
DETROIT, Sept 25 An influential consumer
magazine said Fisker Automotive's Karma plug-in hybrid has a
variety of flaws, from limited visibility to a poorly designed
touch-screen system that amounts to an "ergonomic disaster."
The less-than-glowing report from Consumer Reports magazine
is the latest blow for Fisker, which is looking to raise funds
after being denied access to more than half of a $529 million
government loan that was the cornerstone of its business plan.
Consumer Reports tested a $107,850 Karma - the most
expensive vehicle the magazine has tested - and said it does not
fare well against most other luxury vehicles, due partly to its
cramped interior and overly complex controls system.
"Although we found its ride, handling and braking
performance sound and it has first-class interior materials, the
Karma's problems outweighed the good," said Jake Fisher,
director of Consumer Reports' auto test center.
"When it's running, the gasoline engine has an unrefined
roar. And the Karma's heavy weight affects agility and
performance, as the Karma lacks the oomph you expect," he added.
In a statement, Fisker noted that the magazine appreciated
the Karma's ride, handling and braking and said it plans to
improve the Karma's sound quality and touch-screen system.
"As the Karma is a concept car come to life, packaging and
visibility will of course not be that of a minivan," Fisker
The Karma plug-in hybrid is an extended-range electric
vehicle similar to General Motors' Chevrolet Volt. Once the
battery is used fully, a "raspy" turbocharged GM-supplied engine
kicks in, Consumer Reports said.
The Karma gets the equivalent of 66 miles per gallon on a
full charge, but once running on the gas engine, the Karma gets
an "unimpressive" 22 mpg, the magazine found.
"The 66 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) recorded during
testing - the highest of nearly any production car -- is a great
endorsement for Fisker as pioneers of this new luxury segment,"
Fisker has benefited from its styling and high-profile
clientele, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop singer
Justin Bieber. In its statement, Fisker said it brought the
Karma, "a pioneering vehicle," to market in record time.
But the vehicle has also faced a series of setbacks. Earlier
this year, a Karma tested by Consumer Reports failed due to a
problem with the battery made by A123 Systems, which prompted
A123 to recall all the Fisker battery packs.
After the battery problem was fixed, Consumer Reports'
engineers still experienced "disconcerting intermittent glitches
related to the gauges, warning lights, power windows and radio,"
the magazine said.
In August, Fisker also recalled 2,400 Karma plug-in hybrids
to repair a faulty cooling fan unit that was the cause of a
vehicle fire in Woodside, California.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy denied
Fisker access to more than half of a $529 million government
loan awarded in 2009 due to delays in the Karma launch.
The company has been looking to raise $150 million in
additional funds to tide it over until production of the
Atlantic, Fisker's second hybrid model, Ray Lane, a Fisker
director and a managing partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins
Caufield & Byers, said in an interview in mid-August.
The company has already raised more than $1 billion in
private financing from venture backers and others since its
founding in 2007.