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There's still some bad blood between Elon Musk and Henrik Fisker

Just a few hours ago, Fisker Automotive announced that it was able to determine the cause of the latest fire that destroyed a Karma hybrid/electric sedan. Now, we’ve learned that Tesla Motors/Space X CEO Elon Musk is jumping into the fray to kick Fisker Automotive while it’s down in an interview with Automobile Magazine. It should be noted, however, that Musk and Fisker Automotive founder Henrik Fisker have a rocky past (read this article for some background information).
Musk was somewhat diplomatic when talking about the Karma’s styling, noting, “It looks good. Particularly from the side it looks good. I don’t love the front. It looks too much like a caricature of a Mexican Bandito—the grille.”

But the emphasis on over-the-top styling lead to one of Musk’s main criticisms of Henrik Fisker and the Karma sedan. “The fundamental problem with Henrik Fisker — he is a designer or stylist… he thinks the reason we don’t have electric cars is for lack of styling. This is not the reason. It’s fundamentally a technology problem."
In other words, the Karma is all style with little substance.

Henrik Fisker and the Fisker Karma [Image Source: Car and Driver]
Musk goes on to state that the voluptuous bodylines of the Karma make for an oddly packaged vehicle. For example, despite the fact that Karma weighs as much as a full-size SUV (5,300 lbs) and is nearly 200" long, it has very little cargo capacity and can only seat four people.
Although Musk doesn't allude to the Model S in this section of the Automobile Magazine interview, the Model S is faster, features both a front and rear trunk, and can seat five people in its base configuration. The Model S can also seat up to seven with optional rear-facing jump seats installed in the cargo hold (Elon Musk has five children and wanted to be able to transport them all in the Model S).
Musk also took Fisker to task over outsourcing much of the development of the Karma to other companies (most of the development for the Model S was done in-house). "He outsourced the engineering and manufacturing. But the fact is…that’s the crux of the problem. And he’s outsourcing to people who don’t know how to solve the problem."

Elon Musk and the Tesla Model S [Image Source: AutoEvolution]
Given the two reported fires involving the Fisker Karma (including the most recent fire which was caused by a third-party supplier's cooling fan) along with the recall and replacement of battery packs, we're sure that Musk is probably patting himself on the back.
To sum up his thoughts on the Karma, Musk proclaimed that the vehicle is "a mediocre product at a high price." The Fisker Karma starts at $95,900 while the entry-level Model S starts at $57,500 and can hit $105,400 for the "Signature Performance" version.

Sources: Automobile Magazine, Autoblog Green

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Nailed it
By Mitch101 on 8/18/2012 9:01:50 PM , Rating: 4
I don’t love the front. It looks too much like a caricature of a Mexican Bandito—the grille.

I saw that immediately before I read the article. Too Funny.

RE: Nailed it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/18/2012 9:15:54 PM , Rating: 2
Musk is coming off like a douche here and trying to capitalize on Fisker's recent incident. The truth is both of these companies took taxpayer money, both have had their problems, and both make wildly overpriced and impracticable vehicles.

Sorry Musk but the only rational conclusion here is that neither you nor Fisker have a good product.

RE: Nailed it
By Jeffk464 on 8/18/2012 9:31:11 PM , Rating: 3
I agree completely, its worse publicity for him the for Fisker. Seems to me driven CEO should focus on talking up their products rather than bashing the competition, and I'm a Musk fan.

RE: Nailed it
By Brandon Hill on 8/18/2012 11:16:17 PM , Rating: 5
Well, to be fair to Musk, he also bashes his own Roadster in the interview:

It wasn't as though I thought it was going to be a fast way to make money or something. I thought it would be hard. I think the initial business plan was, like, $25 or $30 million to try to bring a car to market using...a derivative of the Elise chassis and some powertrain technology that had been developed by AC Propulsion. As it turned out, the AC Propulsion technology didn't work, so we had to redo all that. And the Elise -- once you added the electric powertrain, it invalidated all the crash work, the mass grew by 30 percent, the weight distribution was different, the load points were all different. We had to stretch the chassis just to be able to fit people in, so that turned out to be a really dumb strategy, too.

So it was like you wanted to build a house, couldn't find the right house, so you try to fix an existing house and end up changing everything except for one wall in the basement. It would have cost way less to just level the house [laughs] and start from scratch. What sounded like a good idea at first, which was to leverage the Elise chassis, was actually an incredibly dumb idea [laughs].

RE: Nailed it
By inperfectdarkness on 8/19/12, Rating: -1
RE: Nailed it
By Ringold on 8/19/2012 8:56:18 PM , Rating: 3
And the Elise -- once you added the electric powertrain, it invalidated all the crash work, the mass grew by 30 percent, the weight distribution was different, the load points were all different. We had to stretch the chassis just to be able to fit people in

RE: Nailed it
By inperfectdarkness on 8/21/2012 2:58:33 PM , Rating: 2
The Elise is also a unibody. For a frame-on-body, these types of issues shouldn't be a problem. Tesla should have done the math on minimum size required for passenger space + electrical components before commissioning a chassis.

There's no substitute for adequate planning.

RE: Nailed it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/19/2012 8:53:57 AM , Rating: 5
Brandon I would hardly call that "bashing".

Musk sued "Top Gear" because the Tesla Roadster fared very poorly when pushed to it's limits. The motors overheated, the batteries drained extremely fast, and something in the braking system failed. Instead of being open to criticism and eager to address these problems, he slaps a lawsuit on the show as if to claim they were out to get him to the point that they would make up lies. Even though Clarkson and the gang were very generous in their praise of the Tesla, when warranted.

So despite whatever he says, that's the real Musk. Someone who tries silencing media outlets and reviewers with lawsuits when they don't automatically proclaim his product as the best thing ever. I lost a lot of respect for him that day.

The lawsuit was tossed out of court by the judge, so he filed a second lawsuit, which was also tossed. Sheesh Musk, grudge much? Throw a tantrum why don't you, you big baby.

That's almost worse than Apple's strategy. At least they don't sue bloggers and tech TV shows who don't agree with them.

RE: Nailed it
By wordsworm on 8/19/12, Rating: 0
RE: Nailed it
By BZDTemp on 8/19/2012 12:34:18 PM , Rating: 3
Top Gear isn't all jokes and gags they do also highlight real issues and that is what they did with the Tesla.

Fact is the Tesla doesn't really work as a sports car unless you see it as only for showing off on short commutes. A sports car must be able to let you go on hour long drives for fun and also work on a track day. If you try and take the Tesla for a track day then chances are you'll arrive at the track already half way down on the batteries and after the first track stint it will spend the rest of the day charging in the pits. The Top Gear boys highlighted this and on top of that the cars also showed them self to have other issues with track driving.

RE: Nailed it
By Samus on 8/20/2012 1:02:29 AM , Rating: 1
No, I'm with wordsworm. I've subscribed to Top Gear magazine for years, which offers thorough reviews and real-life tests. The show borrows very little from the magazine, and Claskson/May/Hammond don't have substantial involvement in its publication. Actually James May writes more in the magazine than the other two combined.

The show is purely entertainment. Nothing can be taken seriously from it. If you witnessed the recommendation trends through the seasons, they are:

Buy Ford (2002-2005)
Buy Fiat (2006-2007)
Buy Japanese (2008-2009)
Buy Mercedes (2010-current)

Like Consumer Reports, there are motivations at hand to have these reviewers recommend these products during these periods. Sure, they could be good products, but that isn't the only reason they are recommended.

The show is ridiculous and over the top, pure entertainment and I've watched it since 1988, never missing an episode, and I stayed current with Fifth Gear through the late 90's when Top Gear went AWOL.

To the point...what they did to the Tesla Roadster was politically charged (very anti-forward thinking) by falsifying many of the failures, especially the regenerative braking system 'overheating'. Yes, the cars both lost charge in 50 miles, far from their rated milage, but they had the crap beaten out of them, and as hybrids has proven, beating on electric technology DOES NOT YIELD good milage.

RE: Nailed it
By BZDTemp on 8/20/2012 3:34:23 AM , Rating: 2
Hold on, it is not like I'm saying Top Gear is a consumer advice program but they do point to valid issues while also making for good entertainment. As for the magazine then I'm sorry but to me that doesn't exists and I wasn't commenting on that.

Now for the Tesla thing - Sports Car's need to be able to take being driven on track which means hard driving. If they can't handle it they can't work as sports cars thus in my book the criticism of the Tesla Roadster is perfectly valid.

RE: Nailed it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/20/2012 9:04:35 AM , Rating: 2
Man you're ridiculous. If I was in the market for a Tesla, I would sure want to know that driving it hard would mean the motor could overheat and the mileage goes to nothing. I've driven my car hard many times, and the engine never quit on me!

Yes, the cars both lost charge in 50 miles, far from their rated milage, but they had the crap beaten out of them

They routinely beat the crap out of ICE cars, and I can't remember a new sports car's engine dying on them like the Tesla's.

To the point...what they did to the Tesla Roadster was politically charged (very anti-forward thinking) by falsifying many of the failures, especially the regenerative braking system 'overheating'.

This is simply false. The failure in the brakes would have required taking the Tesla in for servicing. In my mind, broken means broken. The claim that Top Gear falsified anything is a joke, and that's why Musk was thrown out of court for making this claim not once, but twice.

Take your Liberal "forward thinking" nonsense and shove it. The Tesla Roadster is a giant step backwards for car enthusiasts, which makes up Top Gear's main audience. Is not having to buy guys worth all that? It's up for others to decide, but nothing is wrong with being better informed.

By the way, if the car was so damned great, explain to me why it was cancelled?

RE: Nailed it
By wordsworm on 8/20/2012 8:18:52 PM , Rating: 2
You could always do what liberals do and do a little research on your own rather than requiring others to do your research for you.

You know, if you run a Bugatti at its top speed of 400km/h, you'll get it about 50km before having to replace its tires. That's what happens when you push a sports car to its limit. Things wear down fast, they break.

RE: Nailed it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/19/2012 1:38:08 PM , Rating: 2
Top Gear has a history of making funny jokes and gags. Isn't that the reason people watch it?

Exactly which is why suing them for "libel" is absolutely ridiculous and was thrown out of court twice.

I guess Musk has the emotional maturity of a teenager or something.

RE: Nailed it
By Brandon Hill on 8/19/2012 1:45:41 PM , Rating: 5
Brandon I would hardly call that "bashing".

Calling their entire strategy with the car "dumb", the original motor was garbage, and also saying that using the Elise chassis (which wasn't designed with batteries in mind) and having to modify it was "dumb".

He also said that it would have cost them less to build it from scratch. If that isn't bashing, I don't know what is.

RE: Nailed it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/19/2012 6:12:50 PM , Rating: 1
It's all about the phrasing. Calling his competitor's product a "stupid Mexican sombrero" looking thing is quite different than those statements you highlighted of him acknowledging Tesla shortfalls in a modest way.

Musk has a personal beef with Fisker, that much is clear. This is just him wanting to kick mud in the face of a competitor when he's down, and taking advantage of the situation.

RE: Nailed it
By geddarkstorm on 8/19/2012 10:44:36 PM , Rating: 2
Wait... where did he call it a "stupid Mexican sombrero"? I haven't seen the interview, just the snippits here on Dailytech, but I don't see anything that Musk said about Fisker that is even remotely as harsh as the snippit Brandon posted where Musk talks of his own company's failures.

In fact, all the quotes in the main Dailytech article seem true, as far as I see. The very first about the looks just being opinion, but which I do agree with; that front does look like a silly mustache you'd see on Yosemity Sam or something.

RE: Nailed it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/19/12, Rating: 0
RE: Nailed it
By Guspaz on 8/20/2012 11:51:23 AM , Rating: 2
There's a difference between defending what somebody said based on the content, and pointing out "Hey, they never said the stuff you're criticizing them for saying."

You made up a quote, you got called on it. Move on.

RE: Nailed it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/20/12, Rating: 0
RE: Nailed it
By ClownPuncher on 8/20/2012 1:34:39 PM , Rating: 2
You off your meds today or something? You're positively perspiring olive oil.

RE: Nailed it
By StealthX32 on 8/18/2012 9:34:04 PM , Rating: 2
Musk IS a douche. Ask anyone who works for either SpaceX or Tesla.

But so was Steve Jobs.

Not to say douchery is a necessary trait of successful CEOs of innovative companies, but find any interview of either and you'll see the narcissism. They both believe themselves to be gods, and are out to change this world.

RE: Nailed it
By 1prophet on 8/18/2012 10:20:32 PM , Rating: 2
I see that "douchery" trait in a lot of successful visionary people past and present, especially when they go against the natural flow that the masses won't question.

RE: Nailed it
By BugblatterIII on 8/19/2012 9:20:22 AM , Rating: 2
Today's Dilbert covers it pretty well:

Being a douche doesn't guarantee success; I've worked for plenty of douches who never managed to take the company where it needed to go.

I don't think being a nice guy will bring you success in our society, but there's still room to at least be decent and succeed.

RE: Nailed it
By someguy123 on 8/19/2012 7:35:41 PM , Rating: 2
You see "douchery" in popular figures because the controversy they generate is what ultimately gets them public attention. Has hardly any correlation with being a genius nor a visionary.

RE: Nailed it
By Ringold on 8/19/2012 9:01:36 PM , Rating: 2
I've met a lot of business leaders and while they aren't all that way, the correlation is strong. I'd be much more likely to have a beer with a SpaceX engineer than Musk.

Though in some cases instead of that word I'd use "alpha male," perhaps -- which makes some sense, as the meek don't often rise that high.

That said, I'm consistent: I don't like them personally, but I'm not some class warrior because of it. I respect their (large) contributions, I just don't care to be around them any more then I must. :P

RE: Nailed it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/19/12, Rating: 0
RE: Nailed it
By BZDTemp on 8/19/2012 12:25:03 PM , Rating: 2
You're forgetting that Musk(Tesla) also sued Fisker but lost big time. What we see of Musk here is simply what he is and it ain't pretty.

RE: Nailed it
By Qapa on 8/24/2012 11:31:36 AM , Rating: 2
Everyone already knows you are against gov subsidies.

And this news has 0 to do with that!

So, go yell that to yourself... a few thousand or million times until you get over it.. at least for the sake of non-funding news concerning EVs.

By DockScience on 8/19/2012 1:32:27 AM , Rating: 2
I am just glad that my children are on the hook to pay for the $7500 federal subsidy for their wealthy boy toys.

It's not like that they have anything more important to pay for, like their own families.

RE: grateful
By Dr. Kenneth Noisewater on 8/19/2012 9:40:10 PM , Rating: 1
Just like I'm on the hook for your mortgage interest deduction, head of household/child tax credits, and state tax deductions?

RE: grateful
By geddarkstorm on 8/19/2012 10:51:54 PM , Rating: 3
In none of those cases is any of your money going to him; the government is simply giving him back some of his money. Tax deductions are not the same as subsidies.

By btc909 on 8/19/2012 2:16:08 AM , Rating: 2
Whatever design team that came up with the Volt, now those people are a bunch of "douche bags". I'll waive the price argument for these new companies for only a few years. Based on the amount of money borrowed I expect to see a return & selling vehicles around the 100K price range isn't going to make either company profitable. I could care less if Fisker tanks. Just today a recall for the electric fans was announced for the Karma.

By fteoath64 on 8/20/2012 7:41:15 AM , Rating: 2
He should be praising the design and feeling apologetic on the fires rather than outright criticize Frisker like a juvenile kid. The market needs more competition for full-electrics and these two are pioneers in a different market segment.

Tesla has no reason to fear this competition unless they created a car priced around the same price and targeted for specialist buyers rather than creating a "Lotus Elise" type car.

Note: Any car can catch fire under the wrong conditions so no one is really immune to such disasters.

Oh, you know...
By EricMartello on 8/20/2012 3:17:14 PM , Rating: 2
He's just fanning the flames of competition is all...

By alpha754293 on 8/20/2012 3:40:49 PM , Rating: 1
And I've done a few things for them (albeit in a very limited) capacity; but even with very little exposure to both; they each have their own problems.

Fisker - the best way that I can sum up our working with Fisker (in my own opinion and not that of the company I work for) is that I don't really think that they know what they're doing. Rumor has it that the company is run/managed by a bunch of former execs and managers and I don't know if any of them are actually specifically technically inclined that came from a large OEM. So unfortunately for them, they still carried their old, large OEM mentality along with them; and THAT certainly did NOT help them out in the long run.

They were (quite literally) expecting us to pull engineering miracles out of our asses (like they'd be moving the hardpoints on us, and expect us to remodel the whole car, and be ready to present the new results in a few days). It was quite ridiculous. AND they want whatever we present to them to pass. Other program requirements were COMPLETELY unrealistic to the point where our boss' boss' boss was yelling at them in order to get their shit straight.

And then on top of that, the missed all of their deliverables to DoE and then they stopped paying people. They're not the most technically competent company/people that I've ever seen. But that's what you get when you put a bunch of business and marketing people in charge -- people who don't really understand what they're dealing with. (And the fact that because it's a hybrid, pretty much ALL of their experience that they had (whatever it was) from the large OEM whence they came, no longer applied. HEVs are a totally different animal. And therefore; the approach to them HAS to be totally different.

Tesla on the other hand - they had their share of technical and engineering issues too. But they seemed to have a better grasp of reality than Fisker. They had their issues, and perhaps some of the solutions that they have isn't exactly the most ELEGANT of solutions, but they were at least able to rationalize whether something made sense. Whether what they were trying to do made sense. Whether what they were asking US to do made sense. And I don't think that we've done anything for Tesla in about a year now. Maybe a little less. The last round of issues, we seem to have fixed for them. And I haven't heard contrary to that since. And their car IS better. It gets better range, better energy efficiency, looks better (IMO), and doesn't weigh like a SUV.

It is, for all intents and purposes, a properly engineered car. You can SEE that Tesla learned from their roadster. I don't think that Fisker learned a damn thing from their Karma (going to their Nina).

So the demise of Fisker - really isn't all that surprising. The writing was on the wall. And when your supplier is telling you what to do; you have bigger issues than just money. You have incompetence to deal with and that's a REALLY tough brick to break/problem to solve. And for the CEO, it's ok if you don't understand something so long as you surround with people that do. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that Fisker did that. And when you outsource a lot of your core engineering work (engineering work that SHOULD be done in-house, with your core engineering team); it's not like BUYING a car where you can expect other people for you to solve your problems for you and you just pick from the final candidates. As an OEM; you are (legally) responsible for it. And don't even get me started on all of the vehicle packaging NIGHTMARES that we went through with Fisker. (It literally WAS a nightmare.) e.g. they had the wiring harness going through our part and instead of re-routing the wiring harness, they wanted us to move a structural; crash/safety-protection member out of the way for a friggin' WIRING HARNESS. So unless your electronics is SOOO sensitive to the impedience in your WIRING HARNESS, move the damn wiring harness and leave the structure alone. But nope. Not with Fisker.

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