Consumer Reports Spends $107K On Fisker Karma; It Breaks Down In Parking Lot

As many of you probably already know, our kin at Consumer Reports buy everything they test at retail. Which means that they aren’t testing a product that has been optimized or checked out by the manufacturer in advance. It also means that every once in a while, a $107,000 car breaks down in the parking lot.

The CR cars folks were just beginning to put the luxury hybrid Fisker Karma through its paces at the test track when:

[T]he dashboard flashed a message and sounded a “bing” showing a major fault. Our technician got the car off the track and put it into Park to go through the owner’s manual to interpret the warning. At that point, the transmission went into Neutral and wouldn’t engage any gear through its electronic shifter except Park and Neutral.

We let the car sit for about an hour and restarted it. We could now engage Drive and the same error message disappeared. After moving it only a few feet the error message reappeared and when we tried to engage Reverse the transmission went straight to Park and again no motion gear could be engaged. After calling the dealer, which is about 100 miles away, they promptly sent a flatbed tow truck to haul away the disabled Fisker.

According to CR, which purchases around 80 cars each year, this is the first time they had a car that was undriveable without having completed even the most preliminary tests.

Bad Karma: Our Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid breaks down [Consumer Reports]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hi_Hello says:

    What do they do when the cars after testing??

  2. Captain Spock says:

    The CR reviewer mentioned on the radio this morning, that this would not affect the rating, it will just take longer to review… which seems silly, but I guess they would have to have this happen on multiple cars to show a pattern.

    In other news Fisker Recalling 239 Karma Plug-In Hybrids for Fire Hazard …

    • Lyn Torden says:

      This does need to affect the rating. The problem is, the sampling size is too small for good confidence. CR would need to use buyer feedback to get a decent sample size on “how long it is drivable after purchase” ratings … unless they wanted to buy 300 of each model (impractical).

      • dangermike says:

        Their rating methodology uses data from surveys submitted by subscribers. Technically, their road tests would not be a factor in those ratings. It is entirely appropriate to report on the failure, and clearly, because we’re discussing it now, not have they reported on it but that reporting has been widely noted by a broader spectrum of media.

  3. az123 says:

    At least when you spend over $100K on a car the dealer will send a tow truck for it when you are stranded

    • yurei avalon says:

      You can spend over $60k on a jag and the dealer will come get you with a flatbed too when it breaks down. Granted, it was their fault the car had a problem since they did not tightly screw the oil cap back in after changing the oil. I think my grandparents were bought free lunch as well that day while they waited for the tow and necessary repairs to be made.

      If it was me I wouldn’t have been as nice about it. >3

  4. weedpindle says:

    Let’s give them more taxpayer money.

    • longfeltwant says:

      Poe’s law

    • chargernj says:

      Really, where does it say the government GAVE money to Fisker Karma? Seriously, cause I found some articles about some loans that were extended to them, but no outright cases where money was actually given to the company. But perhaps I missed those articles, so please enlighten me if you can.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        Obvious troll is obvious. Report them instead.

        • Snowblind says:

          No problem, I will report you for calling people trolls with no reasoning behind the accusation.

      • Snowblind says:

        They were given money as part of a grant to develop better batteries and charging systems.

        They also received loans. Until they default and don’t pay them back, I guess technically we did not “give” it to them.

        We are just on the hook to pay the loan if they don’t.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I think the user was thinking about Tesla Motors, which got government grants. And is not actually breaking down in the parking lot.

      • nonzenze says:

        A loan guarantee is worth money, giving someone a loan at lower than market interest rate is worth money.

  5. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    A plug-in hybrid that only the 1% can afford. Are owners still hated for being rich, or does the fact that they drive a hybrid mitigate the envy?

    • dolemite says:

      Well, everyone already hates hybrid owners for being so smug. “Hey, you drive that?? Well some of us care about Mother Earth.” Now, you have a 1%er smug mobile, which makes the hate multiplied by 10.

      • Ben says:

        Seeing smugness in others is usually a sign of a guilty conscience.

      • longfeltwant says:

        Hybrid or pure electric vehicles are most often powered by coal, which pollutes more than gasoline engines. Furthermore, these new vehicles contain enormous batteries made from materials strip-mined in Canada and elsewhere, which is devastating to the environment. Therefore, not only are electric cars no greener than gas, they are in fact exactly the opposite. It’s cool technology — nothing wrong with that — but anyone who tries to pass themselves off as “pro-environment” because they have one is lying to themselves, and willfully ignorant.

        • PunditGuy says:

          I can’t argue with you about the makeup of the batteries. We have to find a better solution.

          But the coal argument is no good. In addition to the fact that the electric power could come from any source — coal, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, what have you — the coal power plant that generated that electricity did so at a significantly better efficiency than any internal combustion engine.

          • OutPastPluto says:

            The problem with coal is dirty power plants using dirty coal. Certain parties in government have a strong resistance to cleaning this sort of problem up.

            They would rather just let it rain acid in Canada.

        • Kuri says:

          That doesn’t mean it needs to be abandoned. The electricity can come from any source. It’s electricity, it doesn’t care.

          I dunno which is worse, being smug when owning an electric/hybrid, or being smug when pointing out every possible flaw.

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        It’s easy to be smug when you can afford car payments well over $1000 per month. I used a quick online calculation – if I have a $20K downpayment, in PA with 6% sales tax, interest rate of 5%, and 72 months to pay = $1504.52/month. Hahahahaha!!

        • greggorthechamp says:

          The typical owner of a $100,000+ car does not finance it.

          • Yomiko says:

            They do if the rate on the car note is lower than the return they can get on money invested elsewhere.

          • ReverendTed says:

            Many people who “live large”, driving flashy cars and living in big houses are living way above their means and are heavily indebted, financing everything they can’t put on a credit card.

  6. May contain snark says:

    Bad Karma.

  7. Marlin says:

    Meh sh_t happens. Maybe just a fluke. Mind you seems others have been having problems but doubt I will every work on one and don;t want to buy one.

  8. Torchwood says:

    So, in other words, it was found on road dead.

    Oops, wrong company.

    Did they try rolling up all the windows, getting out of the car, get back in the car, roll down the windows, then try again?

  9. sparc says:

    what a waste of money… consumer reports should get a refund under the lemon law :P

  10. oldwiz65 says:

    I suspect reliability was not a concern for the people who built that car. For 100 grand, you expect it to last for a while and not break down within, what, a week? Even if they fix it, what do you think are the odds it’s a lemon and will probably break down repeatedly in the future?

    That’s one reason I never seriously considered a hybrid – they are too likely to fail on you and getting them repaired is not a job for your local repair shop.

    • SenorAnderson says:

      Hybrids are actually very reliable. There are still plenty of first generation Prii and Insights running on original drivetrains and many with the original battery for the hybrid engine.

      • UncleAl says:

        I’ve never had any problems taking my first generation Prius (which I bought used) to the independent repair shop I use for all my family’s vehicles. Only once have they sent me down to the road to the dealer, and that was for an in-warranty replacement of the main battery around 90K miles.

  11. crispyduck13 says:

    I was going to make a “Karma” joke but CR already beat me to it.

    Let me see if I can pull this off:
    “When you spend $107,000 on a car that rips the lovely profile of a Ferrari 458, then slaps on the grille from a BMW Z3 and headlights from a Nissan 350Z you deserve your bad Karma.

  12. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    Makes me nostalgic for the Chevy Vega.

  13. Invader Zim says:

    So does it fail the review? Whos Karma was it. 0-60 in three weeks

  14. Tegan says:

    Oh man, saw one of these driving down the road the other day and it looked awesome. I’ll be interested to see what CR has to say once they get a fully functional vehicle to review.

  15. DaveWW says:

    Its computer realized that it was due for its .001 mile service… being a 1%er is just plain expensive.

    Or maybe that’s a “feature” we 99%ers just don’t understand.

  16. Buckus says:

    The problem here is simple: the Karma was created by software engineers. There’s that old saying about your first release being the beta and then you’ll fix it with patches afterwards….

    When’s the patch for the Karma going to be ready to download?

  17. backbroken says:

    Backbroken’s car shopping list:

    Ford Focus
    Nissan Sentra
    Fisker Karma
    Honda Civic

  18. sjackson12 says:

    I hope someone’s dogma didn’t run over that karma

  19. backbroken says:

    This is a feature, not a defect. Just think how much fuel you’ll save with a car that can’t get out of drive!

  20. SoFlaSnowMan says:

    I think I’ll scratch that sucker off my short list.

  21. sspeedracer says:

    Nice how CR fukcs with a startup company. Article is top 10 on google search.

    • weedpindle says:

      Some people are idiots

      From ABC News

      With the approval of the Obama administration, an electric car company that received a $529 million federal government loan guarantee is assembling its first line of cars in Finland, saying it could not find a facility in the United States capable of doing the work.

      Vice President Joseph Biden heralded the Energy Department’s $529 million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs. But two years after the loan was announced, the company’s manufacturing jobs are still limited to the assembly of the flashy electric Fisker Karma sports car in Finland.

  22. spiketoo says:

    WTF is CR reviewing $107K cars? Is this their new demographics?

    Stick to Kenmore washers. Just canceled my sub.

  23. Paul in SF says:

    Just Murphy’s law.

  24. CubeRat says:

    My takeaway from this test: Don’t spend 107k on a car, the 15k works better. Actually, everything seems to work better….

  25. kursk says:

    Glad to see American manufacturers getting back to their 70’s standards.

  26. shepd says:

    Fisker, don’t they make scissors?

  27. FrugalFreak says:

    they got true ratings without even doing the testing. I say they got results for less money.

  28. ned4spd8874 says:

    Sounds like…..

    (takes off sunglasses)

    …..bad karma!


  29. ReverendTed says:

    The computer probably detected the stench of a middle-class non-entity and assumed the car was being stolen.

  30. jp7570-1 says:

    Should have paid for the extra-long extension cord option.

  31. LMA says:

    This made me laugh because I’ve been joking with my husband all week, since the “New Cars” issue arrived at our house, that I would be writing in an angry letter complaining that CU didn’t test the Bugatti Veyron, and how else would Mitt Romney’s wife know if it was worth upgrading from her two Cadillacs? ;D

  32. LMA says:

    This made me laugh because I’ve been joking with my husband all week, since the “New Cars” issue arrived at our house, that I would be writing in an angry letter complaining that CU didn’t test the Bugatti Veyron, and how else would Mitt Romney’s wife know if it was worth upgrading from her two Cadillacs? ;D

  33. kgb says:

    Doesn’t Fisker make scissors? Or is that Fiskar?

  34. ironflange says:

    Even the Yugo got further than that.

  35. Press1forDialTone says:

    They better not have had to pay for that d*mn piece of
    sh*t. I am going to ask them if they did and if they did,
    they are done as far as I am concerned. Foundation,
    smoundation. That’s my money they’re spending on
    cars that 99% of their readers can’t afford and don’t
    care about. Buying and testing any item that the majority
    of their readers couldn’t afford is irresponsible. Full stop.
    They just like to get their jollies by testing $80,000 luxury
    Asian/European cars, $3000 ranges that have crappy
    repair ratings and a whole litany of other “top of the line”
    (and sketchy design and reliability) items.
    Does anybody else think this was verging on an outrage?

  36. GrandizerGo says:

    It is mad and stopped working because it was told it was going to Justin Bieber for his birthday.

  37. impatientgirl says:

    that’s epic

  38. Hungry Dog says:

    Money well spent.