Fisker identifies cooling fan as source of Karma fire, recalls all cars

Fisker Karma black rear three quarter viewFisker Automotive began a voluntary recall of its Karma sedan after identifying a cooling fan as the source of a fire that damaged a customer’s car last week. The recall affects all 1,900 Karmas currently on the road.

“The investigation located the ignition source to the left front of the Karma, forward of the wheel, where the low temperature cooling fan is located,” the company said in a statement. “The final conclusion was that this sealed component had an internal fault that caused it to fail, overheat and start a slow burning fire.”

The recall will replace the cooling fan, and all Karmas will get a second fuse on the fan’s circuit as an added precaution.

The investigation began last Friday, when a Karma caught fire in a Woodside, California parking lot. When its owner returned from buying groceries, he found smoke pouring out from under the hood. Firefighters arrived quickly and put out the blaze before too much damage was done to the car. No one was injured.

Fisker quickly started an investigation with the help of a private firm. The company almost immediately ruled out the Karma’s battery pack as the cause of the fire, since the damage was limited to the car’s front end.

This is the third incident involving a Karma and a potential or actual fire. Earlier this year, Fisker recalled 247 Karmas due to concerns that an improperly-placed hose clamp in the battery pack could cause coolant to leak and create a short.

The blame for the first recall was laid at the feet of battery supplier A123 Systems, which had to replace more batteries this past March in a second recall over faulty control systems.

Despite the previous recall, the Karma that caught fire in California was not the first. In May, a Karma burned to the ground, taking a Texas garage with it. That car was not part of the first recall (it was only 60 days old at the time of the fire), and the conflagration originated in the engine compartment.

This latest fire comes at a particularly awkward time for Fisker. The company needs $150 million to finish development work on its next car, the Atlantic, which was shown to the media at the New York Auto Show this past April.

The company is also in the midst of a leadership change. Former Chevrolet Volt engineer Tony Posawatz replaced former Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda as Fisker CEO earlier this month. LaSorda had been CEO for less than a year.

Even established companies have quality issues (Ferrari and its flammable 458 Italias springs to mind), so the fact that a new, small company like Fisker is having problems is not surprising. However, if the company does not get these problems under control soon, it will have a hard time generating enough cash to build the Atlantic, or to survive.