It is official: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Fisker Automotive chief Henrik Fisker are throwing jabs at each other, without wearing gloves or safety helmets! Okay, maybe it's not that exciting, but, for those interested in the egos and competition behind the new industry of luxury plug-ins, it's worth checking out.

Most of the juicy information came from the extremely busy Musk, taking time away from developing advanced EV technology and Space X cargo ships, to talk gossip with Automobile Magazine about archrival Fisker that goes back a few years, when Tesla unsuccessfully sued Henrik Fisker for developing the Karma while under contract for the design of the Model S – basically paying someone to design his own car.

Another, more newsworthy zinger was when Musk called out Fisker as a smart designer but one who does not understand the underlying technology problem. Musk said:

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. At the same time, you need to make it look good and feel good, because otherwise you're going to have an impaired product. But just making something look like an electric car does not make it an electric car.

Fisker has been scrambling around lately to deal with fires and recalls connected to its A123 Systems partnership. Musk's biggest jab was directed at the flagship Karma: "It's a mediocre product at a high price."

So what did Henrik Fisker have to say? In a written response to Automobile Magazine, Fisker stayed friendly, but did throw down the competitive gauntlet: range anxiety. "Obviously, Tesla and Fisker are appealing to two different customer bases with two totally different technologies. Tesla has pure EV and Fisker has a range-extended offering with no compromise on range," he wrote. Zing!

Fisker thanked Musk for giving a nod to the good-looking Karma, which won Automobile's 2012 Design of the Year. He also made a statement to clear up the legal wrangle: Fisker won in court. A judge threw out the case and awarded costs to Fisker.

Both companies have done a lot of "borrowing" of existing technologies to bring their plug-ins to market. Karma needed Quantum Technologies to provide the plug-in hybrid drivetrain and used a General Motors-sourced 2.0 liter turbo four-cylinder engine. Tesla used the Lotus Elise to develop its first car, the Roadster. That being said, the sparring judges would probably send more points to Tesla Motors, which is selling its battery system and EV powertrain technology to companies like Toyota.

Ding, ding, ding! Elon Musk wins this round. Will there be another?


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  • 117 Comments
      briang19
      • 2 Years Ago
      As an owner of a Fisker Karma I can say that Elon Musk is mostly right. The Karma is pricey, has horrible electric range, and is buggy as hell. However, at least it looks cool. The Model S pretty much looks like a Ford.
        Matt Brown
        • 2 Years Ago
        @briang19
        it does borrow some Ford design features, like the grille opening, and the fact that it is not on fire.
      PeterScott
      • 2 Years Ago
      He doesn't say much that most people who follow this stuff, don't already think. The Karma seems under-engineered and overpriced. For a fledgling industry, it would really be better if it was never built, as it's shortcomings will tend to taint the industry. In its very small production run it has already caught fire twice, it gets terrible range extender MPG, and it is cramped with a small trunk despite being fairly huge.
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why do people care where the fires started on the Fisker? To the owner, does it matter? The Ford Pinto was not an indictment on all ICE cars, and the Fisker isn't an indictment on all electrics, or hybrids. It just has a tendency to catch on fire. I have heard of no Leaves, nor Tesla's that have caught fire. The only Volt was stupidity on the test people for not draining the battery.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        Lamborghini fires, Ford Explorer fires, Pinto fires, and even a car called the 'chevy blazer' catching on fire couldn't manage to convince people that internal combustion engine car is dangerous. You know what it boils down to? people are scared of new things. That's it.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        There were two Volt fires. One was in a charger while charging. The problem was attributed to the outlet it was charging from being insufficient (overheating). The other is the crash test car you speak of.
        me
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        I think it matters to an owner of a Karma if it goes up in flames.. wow
        Jim Ackley
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        There have been several Tesla's that have caught on fire, Tesla had a major recall on the Tesla Roadster due to a cable chafing issue that caused a fire. Here is a youtube clip of one of the cars that caught on fire. A lot of people have a short memory Tesla says 40% of its Roadsters may catch fire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFl8v1lxH0k
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jim Ackley
          That's interesting, doesn't look like it was much of a fire though in the video. I remember reading that the Camaro had a similar wiring issue, the second it was released. A lot of cars have had wiring chafing issues. It's news to me when a battery goes up in smoke!
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jim Ackley
          Thank you Jim, I was unaware. :) My point is,if my car catches on fire and burns up, somebody telling me that it didn't come from the fuel pump does not comfort me much.
          Giza Plateau
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jim Ackley
          Jim, what's your source on several? That seems more like smoke than fire
      me
      • 2 Years Ago
      Mr. Musk is correct I went to visit both locations in my home state of Cali. I'm deciding on which one to purchase. Since I'm going for the top of the line module ( and will have to wait a while to get either ) cost was not a factor. I went to a location in South Cali for the Fisker, the staff was very nice, good knowledge of their car & were up front about the fire issues. I won't go into details but it was easy to see they were worried about the bad news about the cars. I drove the Karma, liked it but it was a little tight & the touch interface was awful. The drive smooth, turned corners very well & the looks I got were nice ( wifey was not too happy when a lady gave me a nice smile ). Oh Fisker let me drive it without a sales person, which was a good thing. Now we did hear some squeeks, & groans when the engine kicked on. All said it a nice car, sexy as hell! The staff was great & we had a good time. Now off to Tesla, we were about 30mins late but our Tesla employee waited & greeted us, when we walked into the store it was amazing! The energy in the room from the staff, & customers , it just felt like this place is serious about selling a good product. There were more modules onsite than at Fiskers showroom. We were 1st taken to a room given all the functions on how the car works a step by step instructions on how the car works & other learning tools. Then off to the car & drive, the finish was very well & the fit inside & out was top of the line. Not a thing out of place compared to the Karma, very silent when driving & it seemed to get going better than the Karma. The touchscreen interface man what can you say! Wifey kept messing with every function on the thing! The drive was very very smooth & with 300 mile range it will take us everywhere. The back seat are something the kids will love & there's room for adults. All said the Module S was just a better car, from a more stable company & no fear of fire! One thing that won me over was the build quality of the car, I work in the nuclear industry & we must use many of the tooling spacecraft & aircraft use. Some of the tooling on this car are from that same industry, Space X must meet very very high quality standards ( humans are working in space ) and it seems Telsa uses their sister company's work module... So we place our order for an All Black Module S w/ 300 Mile range .. sorry Karma sexy car but just not good enough I have a sexy wifey already !
      Unni
      • 2 Years Ago
      Elon Musk is bluffing as he is ready to head to automotive graveyard and Fisher seems getting industry guys who run similar programs and finding way to move ahead. Henrik Fisker seems breaking ICE gently and stepping towards success.
        FreeThinker
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Unni
        You're not too far off the mark actually. What a lot of people don't know is that Fisker already understood that he wasn't an engineer, so he hired a bunch of former GM, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota and BMW engineers, many of whom have EV and/or hybrid experience. So you will get downvoted in the short-term, but may be right in the longterm. Fisker has made many good friends in auto business who were more than willing to help. Only time will tell.
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Ding, ding, ding! Elon Musk wins this round. Will there be another?" It's not really as simple as that, since who will basically win this round is whose company can eventually survive. (Not to mention, Fisker actually won the round against Musk in Court, which is kind of more important than this way). Elon Musk (from the interview in Automobile): "The debate in 2008 was whether I was going to let Tesla die or [not]. It was a very tough point...  ...The next six months for Tesla are going to be tough. I think six months from now, we'll know whether it will survive or not." So, he just repeated it again. Another interesting thought from Musk (same interview): "But just making something look like an electric car [i.e. Fisker] does not make it an electric car. It's kind of puzzling. So, this would mean Fisker Karma looks like an electric car? I don't know, I'm not sure an outsider could tell it only from its looks. Maybe the success of electric cars rather could be not to look like an electric car (as most of them today). To be fair, the Karma is the first car of a brand new automaker and Musk also talks in length in the interview about the difficulties of putting into mass production a very first vehicle or - as he refers to the Tesla Roadster - a "prior-generation technology". I think he just simply cannot get over loosing the battle in court against Fisker, thus he continues it in this sort of not really mature / professional way. He is definitely an excellent business man (net worth estimated at around $2 billion), but he should no doubt mature a lot in personality and communication skills. ========= P.S.: And he might rather focus on the future of Tesla and SpaceX, thus not Fisker, as they already have a new CEO for this mission.
        Nick
        • 2 Years Ago
        "he should no doubt mature a lot in personality and communication skills." I'd argue that Musk's ways make him a leader within his companies, but I suggest hiring a spokesman for anything facing the outside world...
        Marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        krisztiant It's an unfortunate trait of a certain type of South African, being more than usually sensitive of opposition and criticism. You are quite correct, for a brilliant guy, Musk does have some less than attractive qualities.
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      But it is kinda like a fight in the special ed class. They need to stop fighting with each other and fix their own issues.
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        Tesla rocks....do they have issues.....?
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          Ahhhh....cool.
          Nick
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          EZEE Financial issues.
          kEiThZ
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          They have barely any Model S vehicles on the road. Who knows what issues will pop up once customers start pushing these vehicles. That's why, it would behoove Elon to keep his mouth shut.
      Classic_Engr
      • 2 Years Ago
      I pointed this out in another post, but comparing the vehicles is a moot point from a sales perspective. I have no doubt that the Tesla is a decent EV mid-range luxury sedan. But the Fisker is EREV flagship cruiser. That's like comparing a loaded BMW 540 to a 750iL or an MB S550. Of course BMW sells more 540s than the other two. There has always been a larger market for the more affordable mid-range sedan than there is for the less affordable flagship cruisers. Comparing the Tesla S to the 2014 Atlantic, on the otherhand...
      • 2 Years Ago
      Elon is an arrogant, amateur entrepreneur who does not know how to respect peers and competitors. He sued Henrik Fisker for keeping the best design for himself and now calls the same product mediocre. The man cannot make up his mind or perhaps has no clue!!!
        Grendal
        • 1 Day Ago
        Well he's got his flaws but he's still using his money to create products and jobs. Starting with nothing he's created five companies and made over $2 billion - not bad for an arrogant, amateur entrepreneur. His current three companies are the #1 solar panel distributor in the US, a successful rocket company that undercuts the price of every other rocket company in the world including governments, and an electric car company that's makes the best electric car in the world. Yup, he's a bit arrogant.
        bluepongo1
        • 1 Day Ago
        LOL Fisker's best design: Hybrid, many times more points of failure so get 'em while they're hot.;) Fisker was sued for wasting time for his own gain.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Day Ago
          @bluepongo1
          Tesla lost that lawsuit, and had to pay Fisker damages. The court found that Tesla lawsuit was baseless and pursued in bad faith.
          bluepongo1
          • 1 Day Ago
          @bluepongo1
          reply Letstakeawalk : The uncorruptable government is never wrong ... you're adoreable. Hybrid green washing is false advertising and the courts said to a judge assaulted for no reason he had no case.
      ForoCochesEléctricos
      Where´s the mediocre word on the Musk statements???
        Grendal
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ForoCochesEléctricos
        In this Q & A article: http://www.automobilemag.com/features/news/1208_q_and_a_elon_musk_ceo_tesla/viewall.html
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      He's right and how. The car not only is mediocre, but it's greatly overpriced. And it's a massive greenwash. It's a short-production low-efficiency car for the elite with more money than sense. And that's fine, I just don't see why people treat it differently than other cars of the type. In short, it's the kind of car someone like Justin Beiber would buy because he knows the high price and poor value proposition mean he's going to be the only guy on his block (or in his city) who owns one.
        theflew
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        I agree with it being mediocre, but they have built and sold more than the Model S has. I was surprised to see a Karma driving in Columbus, Ohio.
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's very poor form for Mr. Musk to verbally attack his competition personally (and falsely). "I don't think very highly of Henrik Fisker. At first I thought I'd outsource the design of the Model S to Henrik Fisker when he had a styling company...And, the initial proposals he came with were pretty good, and then as we got into it they started getting worse and worse. I was very puzzled as to why he was producing such awful designs for us. It turns out what he actually decided to do was to take our specifications for the Model S...he took that basic plans, shopped it, got it funded, didn't tell us. What it turned out was, we were paying him to do styling for his own car." Mr. Fisker's response is much more measured and dignified. He is correct to point out that a Judge disagreed with Mr. Musk's opinion, and found the Mr. Fisker had done nothing inappropriate during his time working for Tesla. The court was informed that Tesla had actually considered selling Mr. Fisker their technology after they had been informed of Mr. Fisker's plans to build a 4-door 4-seat PHEV. Tesla entered into a second contract with Mr. Fisker *fully aware* of his plans to work with Quantum - something quite typical for a designer to work on multiple projects for different companies. Tesla employees testified that they were not aware of any confidential Tesla information being used improperly by Mr. Fisker in the development of the Karma. The court found that there was no evidence that Mr. Fisker hid his intentions to build the Karma from Tesla, but that Tesla was well aware that Fisker was still planning to build cars with other clients. They also found that there was no evidence that Mr. Fisker was prohibited contractually from developing another car while being employed by Tesla. The court further found that Mr. Fisker had not used any confidential information from Tesla while developing the Karma, primarily because there was no evidence that Tesla had any PHEV technology. "The evidence is overwhelming that Fisker did nothing wrong... Tesla's assertions of violations of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act by Fisker were baseless and neither brought nor pursued in good faith." Mr. Musk's comment's towards his competition strike me more as sour grapes, rather than a fair appraisal of his competitor's potential. Fisker's response is much more professional: ""Firstly, to set the record straight, Fisker won in court...a judge threw out the case and awarded costs to Fisker. We are delighted that Elon thinks the Karma is a good-looking car. Obviously, Tesla and Fisker are appealing to two different customer bases with two totally different technologies. Tesla has pure EV and Fisker has a range-extended offering with no compromise on range. [edit for space] We wish Tesla all the best with their latest model and hope that both companies go from strength to strength as they challenge the automotive rulebook."
        Grendal
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        LTAW - Well said. I'm a major Tesla fan, but you point out correctly that Fisker is the more professional in this exchange. Elon can't seem to stop himself from saying what he percieves as the truth. The proper response would have been to say nothing or wish Fisker the best of luck.
        RC
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        It is not Elon's fault that your investment self-immolates.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @RC
          Still, it's never good to publicly insult your competition. Don't forget, Tesla had fire recalls, transmission problems,and PO'd early buyers as well. Mr. Musk should learn to take the high ground, and simply state the benefits of his own product. Mr. Musk is still butt-hurt over losing his baseless lawsuit, IMHO.
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @RC
          @rc Haw haw.... :D
        Classic_Engr
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Exactly.
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