Tesla's Elon Musk Dumps on Fisker, Calls Karma a "Mediocre Car at a High Price"
August 18, 2012 8:04 PM
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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/
CEO Elon Musk is jumping into the fray to kick Fisker Automotive while it’s down in an interview with
. 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
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
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
and can hit
for the "Signature Performance" version.
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My company's worked with both Fisker and Tesla
8/20/2012 3:40:49 PM
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.
"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins
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