Automaker Fisker recalls some 2,400 Karmas for cooling fan issue

DETROIT Sat Aug 18, 2012 4:16pm EDT

A Fisker Karma luxury plug-in hybrid car is seen at the sixth annual Alternative Transportation Expo and Conference (AltCar) in Santa Monica, California in this September 29, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files

A Fisker Karma luxury plug-in hybrid car is seen at the sixth annual Alternative Transportation Expo and Conference (AltCar) in Santa Monica, California in this September 29, 2011 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson/Files

DETROIT (Reuters) - Fisker Automotive, a green car company that received funding from the U.S. government, is recalling about 2,400 Karma plug-in hybrids to repair a faulty cooling fan unit that was the cause of a vehicle fire in Woodside, California last week.

The Anaheim, California-based automaker, founded in 2007, said the August 10 fire began in front of the left wheel, where the low temperature cooling fan is located. An "internal fault" caused the sealed unit to fail, starting a slow burning fire, Fisker said in a statement on Saturday.

"The company is working with the responsible supplier and this recall campaign is not expected to have a material financial impact on Fisker," the company said, adding that it has already contacted its dealers and U.S. safety regulators.

The recall represents another challenge for the automaker, which faced several setbacks with the Karma launch, including a recall of its battery made by A123 Systems Inc. This is the second time this year that a Fisker has caught on fire.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy denied Fisker access to more than half of a $529-million government loan awarded in 2009 due to delays in the Karma launch.

Fisker has benefited from its styling and high-profile clientele, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop singer Justin Bieber.

The recall comes after a nearly week-long investigation by Fisker engineers and investigators from the Pacific Rim Investigative Services Group. The group found that the cause of the fire did not stem from the Karma's lithium-ion battery pack.

Fisker said it will replace the cooling fan unit and add an additional fuse for extra protection.

"This incident resulted from a single, faulty component, not our unique EVer powertrain or the engineering of the Karma," Henrik Fisker, the company's executive chairman and co-founder, said in a statement.

"As this situation demonstrates, Fisker Automotive is dedicated to doing whatever is necessary to address safety and quality concerns," he said.

Fisker is hoping to regain footing with the Atlantic sedan, which will cost about half the price of a Karma, which costs more than $100,000.

But Fisker must find more funding because the bulk of the DOE loan was earmarked for the Atlantic's development. Bringing the Atlantic to market is the top priority for Fisker's new chief executive, Tony Posawatz.

Posawatz, the company's third CEO this year, oversaw development of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid for six years before leaving General Motors this summer.

(Reporting By Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Paul Simao)

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