Published November 7, 2012
By Pete Brissette
The salty flood waters of Hurricane Sandy destroyed by fire and flood somewhere around 350 Fisker Karmas last week – a sizable percentage of Fisker's entire production run since launch late last year.
But as for 16 of them burned in one incident, Fisker appears to have dodged a worse public relations outcome following initial reports they went up in flames after their batteries allegedly ignited – some reported they exploded – in the flooding.
As previously noted, the 16 cars were at the Port Newark Container Terminal in New Jersey October 30 and were submerged in seawater during the storm.
On Monday, Fisker had initially said the fire was caused by a short circuit in one car that resulted in a fire that spread to other proximal cars by high winds. It said further that the short occurred in a saltwater-damaged low-voltage vehicle control unit.
In its own investigation with observers on hand from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Fisker concluded that reports by some that the Karmas actually exploded were inaccurate and that the Karma’s “lithium-ion batteries were ruled out as a cause or contributing factor."
Fisker also said "several electric hybrid and non-hybrid cars from a variety of manufacturers caught fire and were damaged in separate incidents after flood waters receded at Port Newark."
Further attempting to distance the Karma’s battery as the root cause of the fire, Fisker said that control unit is common to “many types of vehicles and is powered by a typical 12-volt car battery.”
And in a separate hurricane-related incident, Fisker lost around 330 additional Karmas when its entire shipment from Europe was flooded in the New Jersey Port.
That loss makes the 16 cars look like next to nothing, and company spokesman Roger Ormisher acknowledged the cars “are completely done.”
Estimated value of the flood loss is in excess of $30 million, but in an e-mail Ormisher told us Fisker is fully insured, and in process of filing a claim for the cars that had been earmarked as stock to be distributed to its dealers.
As of last night, Ormisher said the company is still in process of assessing the full extent of the damage, but said, "We don't see any material impact to the business from the loss."