Fisker Recalls 239 Karma Plug-In Electric Vehicles Due to Fire Risk

Fisker Automotive has announced the voluntary recall of 239 of its Karma plug-in electric hybrid autos due to defective batteries.

According to the notice posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site, Karmas manufactured between July 1 and November 3 of this year are included in the recall. Fisker notified the NHTSA of its concerns about the battery cooling systems on December 21. The NHTSA estimates that only about 40 of the 239 recalled Karmas have actually been delivered to customers. The remaining vehicles are believed to be in dealer inventory.

A123 Systems manufactures the lithium-ion batteries used in the Karma and had previously sent letters to Karma owners and investors alerting them of a possible problem with the battery’s cooling system. In the letters, A123 CEO David Vieau said, “We expect this situation to have minimal financial impact on A123, and our relationship with Fisker remains strong.”  Fisker says it has not received any complaints or warranty claims relating to the defective battery cooling systems, but that it initiated the recall “out of an abundance of caution.”

The NHTSA says that the defect is not a manufacturing issue, but the result of an assembly problem. It says that hose clamps on some cooling systems may have been misaligned during the assembly process and that the misalignment can potentially cause battery coolant to leak from the cooling hoses. The agency said, “If coolant enters the battery compartment, an electrical short could occur, possibly resulting in a fire.”

The Karma, which sells for $102,950, is Fisker’s first full production model and went into production earlier this year at a contract assembler’s facilities in Finland.

A123 System was chosen by General Motors Company to supply the batteries for its all-electric Chevrolet Spark. GM expects the Spark to begin appearing in dealer showrooms in 2013.

Last month, the NHTSA initiated a probe of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric hybrid after the lithium-ion batteries in two of its crash-test vehicles caught a fire.  Neither General Motors nor the NHTSA have received consumer complaints of fires being caused by Volt batteries which are supplied by LG Chem of South Korea.

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