Free Republic
Browse · Search
Bloggers & Personal
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Fisker Insinuates Customer to Blame for Karma Fire
National Legal & Policy Center ^ | May 10, 2012 | Paul Chesser

Posted on 05/10/2012 1:29:01 PM PDT by jazusamo

Fisker logo Fisker Automotive has implied that the Texas owner of one of its Karma models committed “fraud” or “malicious intent” in blaming the luxury electric vehicle for his garage fire last week, after he had to rescue his wife, mother and child from flames that spread quickly to his house.

The company’s claim could be a fatal public relations move, as the chief investigator in Fort Bend County Fire Marshal’s Office, Robert Baker, has also blamed the fire on the Karma. Fisker, recipient of $193 million (out of a $529 million total guarantee) loan backed by taxpayers via the Department of Energy, has suffered a series of publicity blunders including two recalls, a Karma breakdown at Consumer Reports’ test facility, a SEC investigation of its primary venture capital raisers, layoffs, and a cutoff of its loan by DOE.

According to a report by Autoweek, the fire started shortly after the owner, Jeremy Gutierrez, parked the Karma in his garage. Gutierrez left the vehicle, which he had purchased in April, without plugging it in. Within minutes he reportedly smelled burning rubber.

“Yes, the Karma was the origin of the fire, but what exactly caused that we don’t know at this time,” said Baker, adding, “This looks just like golf cart fires we have down here.” Apparently the Houston area has several each year.

Nevertheless, Fisker provided a statement to Autoweek that suggested fireworks or an electrical panel as possible fire sources, but also cast aspersions on Gutierrez.

“As of now, multiple insurance investigators are involved, and we have not ruled out possible fraud or malicious intent,” the statement said. “Based on initial observations and inspections, the Karma’s lithium ion battery pack was not being charged at the time and is still intact and does not appear to have been a contributing factor in this incident.”

Gutierrez, in addition to endangerment of the lives of his loved ones, suffered the loss of two other vehicles in the garage – an Acura NSX and Mercedes Benz SUV – plus the destruction to his home (photos at link). Baker, who ruled the fire was accidental, estimated the damage at $100,000 (not including the two other vehicles) – but the Karma alone cost more than that. Gutierrez, clearly angered, issued his own statement through his lawyers, which revealed the remarkable response by Fisker:

Since the date of this incident, Mr. Gutierrez has been fully cooperative with public safety officials, as well as insurance adjusters and the vehicle manufacturer’s investigators. In fact, Mr. Gutierrez fully accommodated the precise and somewhat peculiar demands of Fisker Automotive, who sent their self-proclaimed “SWAT Team” of engineers and inspectors (that included their own forensic cause and origin investigator) to the Gutierrez home within 24 hours of the fire. They descended upon the Gutierrez home in alarming numbers and immediately demanded a 24-hour lock-down of his home, including the remains of the Fisker Karma vehicle. They also cordoned off portions of the Gutierrez home with non-transparent tarps to block the view from the public. Fisker even had access to eyewitnesses, who were interviewed by Fisker investigators and those investigators were shown video footage of the Fisker vehicle on fire before and other part of the garage….

Despite the fact public safety and law enforcement officials have determined Mr. Gutierrez’s home and vehicles are not a crime scene, Fisker Automotive released a public statement on May 8, 2012 implying fraud or malicious intent were open questions. The family is stunned by this implication. The Gutierrez family has afforded every accommodation to Fisker and access to all evidence that public safety and law enforcement official examined. Fisker’s statement is a grave disappointment, especially in light of the damages the family suffered and continues to suffer.

As for Baker, he said, “I’ve worked homicide scenes with less secrecy.”

Fisker seems especially concerned that the Karma’s lithium ion battery – manufactured byequally troubled A123 Systems – was not blamed for the fire. The company’s first recall followed problems with hose clamps on the batteries, and thesecond recall followed the Consumer Reportsfiasco, which affected other A123 customers also. And then last month another A123 battery emitted chemical gases that caused an explosion at a General Motors research facility.

But that doesn’t mean another part of the car didn’t cause the fire, or that the battery wasn’t the culprit. Gutierrez reported he smelled burning rubber. And in the GM case, reports said emissions from the battery caused the explosion – not that the battery burned or exploded itself. Lithium ion batteries are known to overheat, and the problem of "thermal runaway" apparently has not been solved yet .

Regardless of the cause, the panicky response by Fisker is telling. The home invasion by its inspectors and assumption of control of the scene and investigation indicate anticipation of a PR disaster, a lawsuit, or both. That the automaker sent its own forensic cause investigator shows they are prepared to spin evidence in their favor.

As for the implication that Gutierrez might bear malicious responsibility for the incident, as Ronnie Schreiber of Cars in Depth wrote, “That goes well beyond playing defense. Fisker is either confident that foul play was involved or desperate enough over the company’s possible exposure to not care about getting sued for defamation.”

Fisker does appear increasingly desperate. Cut off by DOE, the company had to suspend plans to produce its less pricey Atlantic sedan in Delaware, shutting down renovation activity at an old GM plant. Its capital fundraisers at Chicago-based Advanced Equities, who have been accused of “foisting junky startups on investors,” are under investigation by the SEC. Its politically connected Silicon Valley backers at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers can’t be happy about the negative developments with their big investment, either.

And the fiasco of a Karma purchased by Consumer Reports becoming “undriveable before it has finished our check-in process” cannot be underestimated. If there is any customer you don’t want to have your product totally fail for, it’s CR.

So as a result Fisker has attempted to cloud the circumstances surrounding the Karma fire, stating, “There are conflicting reports and uncertainty surrounding this particular incident.”

The only conflict and uncertainty regarding the fire in Sugar Land, Texas, are the spin and doubt cast by Fisker itself. Baker, the public investigator in charge, was definitive about the fire’s source.

How much more evidence do we need that Recovery Act “green” stimulus, administered byPresident Obama’s Energy Secretary Steven Chu, is a massive failure? Fisker encapsulates it all: Unproven technology, owned by administration cronies, mismanaged, financed by suspected shady figures, with vehicles manufactured for rich people who use it only as a third or fourth toy vehicle. Now, in the case of the Gutierrezes, it has torched the cars they actually need – and their home too.

After blaming one of its precious few customers, if Fisker doesn't have proof to overturn the conclusions of an experienced fire investigator, it is sunk.

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government
KEYWORDS: a123systems; doe; electricvehicles; fisker; garagefire; karma; obama
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-27 next last

1 posted on 05/10/2012 1:29:06 PM PDT by jazusamo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: jazusamo

talk about bad karma.

2 posted on 05/10/2012 1:31:10 PM PDT by brivette
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: jazusamo

Oh, heck. Now what brand of scissors do I buy?

3 posted on 05/10/2012 1:32:13 PM PDT by Dr. Sivana (There is no salvation in politics.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Revolting cat!

I saw a dogma chasing a karma the other day.

4 posted on 05/10/2012 1:33:05 PM PDT by a fool in paradise (Barack Obama has cut and run from what he called "the right war".)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: brivette

Instant Karma’s gonna get you...

5 posted on 05/10/2012 1:33:27 PM PDT by dfwgator (Don't wake up in a roadside ditch. Get rid of Romney.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

Please bump the Freepathon or click above and donate or become a monthly donor

6 posted on 05/10/2012 1:35:09 PM PDT by jazusamo ("Intellect is not wisdom" -- Thomas Sowell)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: jazusamo
Related article:

$100K electric vehicle being investigated after Sugar Land fire

A $100,000 electric car is suspected in sparking a fire at a Sugar Land home last week, according to media reports.

Fort Bend County chief fire investigator Robert Baker told AutoWeek that a newly purchased Fisker Karma sparked a fire that quickly spread to the rest of the home.

“The Karma was the origin of the fire, but what exactly caused that we don’t know at this time,” Baker told the news outlet.

According to his lawyers, Jeremy Gutierrez said his two-week old Karma caught fire soon after he parked the luxury sedan at his home in Sugar Land. The car owner said he smelt rubber rubber before seeing flames coming from the vehicle. The fire spread from the car to the garage before damaging other parts of the home.

Gutierrez told the website that he was able to get his wife, mother and a child from their house. No one was injured in the blaze. Two other vehicles were destroyed by the fire and the home was damaged.

Since the fire, Johnson, Trent, West & Taylor law firm, which is representing the Gutierrez family, said the automaker has been swarming the garage as it investigates the reason for the blaze. The car, which uses a gasoline engine to recharge its lithium-ion battery, was not plugged in at the time.

According to the news story, Gutierrez has asked the automaker to end its probe immediately after the company said Tuesday that it “hadn’t ruled out fraud or malicious intent.”

Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher said the car maker is still investigating the fire, but he said the initial investigation has shown that the electric vehicle technology isn’t the cause of the fire.

“The battery was still intact and still had a charge,” Ormisher said. “We are just waiting for the final report on the cause of the fire.”

Ormisher reiterated that the Karma was not plugged in at the time of the fire and no similar situation have been reported. He also cautioned that the investigation could take some time.

Fisker, which received a $529 million federal loan, has encountered a series of glitches and recalls. The most notable was the high-end sedan breaking down during a Consumer Report test.

In that case, the car was only a few days old and had less than 200 miles on its odometer.

7 posted on 05/10/2012 1:38:44 PM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: jazusamo

So Jeremy Gutierrez, who is probably a liberal supporter of environmental causes, is finding out that he is disposable cannon fodder for a White House Ally. Depending on his job and employment status, he may also be told to take one for the team or bad things could happen.

8 posted on 05/10/2012 1:38:49 PM PDT by Truth29
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: a fool in paradise

I just saw one of them drive past while I was walking the dog a couple of hours ago. Silver and not on fire....yet. It was not going fast as the speed limit is 40 kph or about 25 mph.

9 posted on 05/10/2012 1:39:24 PM PDT by xp38
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: jazusamo

Where have we heard the tactic of blaming the customer .... oh yeah ... the DNC.

The butterfly ballots in Florida, approved by the Florida DNC were too complicated for the stupid Florida voters to figure out.

10 posted on 05/10/2012 1:45:30 PM PDT by Hodar ( Who needs laws; when this FEELS so right?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: jazusamo

The business model of Fisker, Tesla, Aperta, Solyndra and
many others seems to be to create a trendy “green” prototype and use that pretty thing to bilk investors, including the US Taxpayer, of start-up money.

Actually producing the proposed product is not part of the scheme, since producing actual products opens up all kinds of new problems that the company has no intention or ability to solve.

11 posted on 05/10/2012 1:45:37 PM PDT by Haiku Guy ("The problem with Internet Quotes is that you never know if they are real" -- Abraham Lincoln)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: thackney; All
Thanks for posting. Not much left of that Karma. The at link link in article has several close up pics of damage done to car and house.
12 posted on 05/10/2012 1:46:48 PM PDT by jazusamo ("Intellect is not wisdom" -- Thomas Sowell)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Dr. Sivana

I know you are joking, but Fiskars is unrelated to Fisker.

13 posted on 05/10/2012 1:49:00 PM PDT by ltc8k6
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Hodar

Well don’t forget the rash of Prius “problems”, sometimes the customer really is a moron.

14 posted on 05/10/2012 1:50:45 PM PDT by discostu (I did it 35 minutes ago)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: jazusamo

I have heard that some autos are even powered by highly flammable liquids.

15 posted on 05/10/2012 1:50:54 PM PDT by Oztrich Boy (This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel - Horace Walpole)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Truth29
It's pathetic that Fisker would jump in like this and try to blame Gutierrez after the Fire Marshall determined the fire originated in the Karma and he cooperated with them like he did.

Fisker and administration backers of green energy only see more people being turned off by EV’s and Fisker is already in trouble, this could push them over the edge.

16 posted on 05/10/2012 1:53:11 PM PDT by jazusamo ("Intellect is not wisdom" -- Thomas Sowell)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: jazusamo
"after all, that's his karma," the spokesperson wanted to say.
17 posted on 05/10/2012 1:53:15 PM PDT by NonValueAdded (Chen Guangcheng: Gutsy call, Obama /UltraMegaDrippingSarc)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: brivette

You awful person. You beat me to that bad pun. I hate people who get in a bad pun before me. lol

18 posted on 05/10/2012 1:55:21 PM PDT by driftless2
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: brivette

And to top it all off the DIMWITS in the obama regime lent this company money which hired overseas employees. The absolute worse presidential administration in history.

19 posted on 05/10/2012 1:56:12 PM PDT by spawn44
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Haiku Guy

While I agree with your general hypothesis, I don’t think Aptera ever got any gubment money.

20 posted on 05/10/2012 2:00:00 PM PDT by Drill Thrawl (The United States of America, a banana republic since 1913)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-27 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Bloggers & Personal
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson