As an appliance, the Fisker Karma is rough around the edges
The Porsche Panamera: a really fast washing machine? Jaguar XJL: a leather-lined toaster? Audi A8: an aluminum-crafted blender made for the autobahn? This is one way to interpret comments by Tony Posawatz, the new CEO of Fisker Automotive, in response to our recent (and uncomplimentary) review of the Karma sedan.
According to Frank Markus of Motor Trend (echoed in online stories by Joann Muller of Forbes and Jeff Gilbert of CBS), Mr. Posawatz has had some criticisms of our test criteria. From the Motor Trend blog:
“This week, Fisker’s newly minted (five weeks on the job) CEO Tony Posawatz addressed the Automotive Press Association in Detroit to deliver a State of the Company address of sorts on the heels of an unflattering review by Consumer Reports and reports of a recent fire. When asked about these two incidents, he intimated that CR’s reviewers might not be as ideally suited to reviewing design-optimized highly emotional products like the Fisker Karma as they are more appliance-like vehicles, noting that they had also panned the original iPhone for its non-removable battery and non-tactile typing screen.”
If that’s indeed the case, then the appliances—er, luxury sedans—listed above from Porsche, Jaguar, and Audi, which handily out-scored the Karma in our testing, may soon be seen on the sales floor at Sears, Home Depot, and Lowe’s.
Maybe the Karma is meant only for those buyers who can truly appreciate concept-car styling, illuminated by frequent warning lights and operational failures, and punctuated by multiple trips to the dealer. (Of course, most cars are first shown as concept cars as they are readied for production.) Even putting our car’s problems aside, the Karma suffers from several inherent shortcomings, like a very cramped interior, a hefty SUV-like curb weight, lousy visibility, and controls that eschew easy-to-use knobs and buttons for a poorly-designed touch screen. (Knobs are so appliance-like…) Ultimately, its overall test score is below our minimal threshold for recommendation, which does not factor the intermittent glitches that we experienced. (Learn how we test cars.)
Like the iPhone, we expect Fisker will improve their product over time. Mr. Posawatz achieved an impressive feat by leading the Chevrolet Volt‘s development. And presumably, lessons learned working for the corporate giant will benefit Fisker and its products.
Ultimately, the appliance comment is supposed to be a knock against us. But you expect most appliances to work and be well-designed, and the same goes for your car, “design-optimized” or not. Funny thing is, we think that all buyers deserve to get a good car—especially if they’re spending $107,850 on it.
Check out the video below for our take on the Fisker, and see our Full Track Report for the complete details. And if you are interested in appliances, know that other engineers at Consumer Reports test those; see our appliance ratings.
Fisker Karma earns a failing grade from Consumer Reports
Fire leads Fisker to recall Karma, again
Fisker Karma electric car recalled due to possible coolant leak and fire
Fisker shows smaller Atlantic plug-in hybrid sedan in NY
Fisker Q&A reveals other owners face Karma challenges, solutions are promised
Fisker to replace Karma’s drive battery
Five questions with Henrik Fisker, father of the $100,000 Karma plug-in hybrid