The Department of Energy green loans program has come under a lot of fire, ever since solar panel-maker Solyndra filed for bankruptcy last year. Deficit hawks have targeted numerous green energy companies like Ener1 and Th!nk who were recipients of these low-interest government loans. The latest company to come under scrutiny is Fisker, whose $100,000 plug-in hybrid Karma sedan has had its share of technical issues and loan troubles.
A former employee-turned-whistle bloweralleges that the Fisker Karma was pushed to market before it was ready in order to meet the DOE loan deadline. Do these allegations ring true, or are technical issues to be expected from such new, advanced technology?
For me personally, the allegations of an unnamed, former employee of any company always come with a grain of salt. For every serious, scandalous accusation that holds weight, there seems to be an equal number of disgruntled employees looking to make a stink or a buck. To me, the truth always lies somewhere in the middle.
That said, the bumps in the Karma’s road seem to have gotten bigger and bigger. At first it was a software upgrade; then a battery fix. Last week, Consumer Reports test drove a Fisker Karma before it konked out on the highway, leaving the testers stranded. That’s the first time in the history of the company that a car just died on them. There is even a lawsuit that alleges Fisker engaged in shady business practices.
The former employee, who now works for Coda, claims that the Karma was rushed to market despite known problems. This was to meet the conditions for the DOE loans. Unfortunately, the DOE has thus far prohibited Fisker from drawing down on the $300+ million left on its $519 government loan.
The real problem, as I see it, is that the Karma is a $100,000 luxury car. DOE loan or not, Fisker should have taken the time to ensure they were selling a fully functional vehicle. I could see making excuses for some cheap, mass-produced EV. But the Fisker not only has government backing, but substantial private equity as well. A few bugs are to be expected, but the Karma’s problems only seem to be getting bigger.
I really think Obama needs to pull the plug on this project. Fisker is not keeping up their end of the deal by delivering an unfinished car that gets 20 mpg and has a price tag of $100,000.