Fisker's pricey Karma car "plagued with flaws": Consumer Reports

Tue Sep 25, 2012 9:15am EDT
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By Deepa Seetharaman

DETROIT (Reuters) - 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 said.

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.   Continued...