Fisker Karma in a parking lot with flames coming from the front driver's side corner

After two short "we're looking into it" official statements (1, 2), Fisker Automotive has announced that it has completed a "detailed investigation" into the strange, spontaneous combustion of a Karma plug-in hybrid that happened in Woodside, CA last weekend. The result? A voluntary recall to fix the low-temperature cooling fan located in the left front of the Karma, in front of the wheel, that apparently has "an internal fault that caused it to fail, overheat and start a slow burning fire."

Fisker says the supplier is responsible and will work together with the unnamed company to fix the problem. Retailers will contact customers and "this recall campaign is not expected to have a material financial impact on Fisker." The fix entails a new cooling fan "that meets the required specifications" and a new, extra fuse "for added protection." Around 2,400 Karmas are affected by this recall.

As the latest statement makes clear, and as we expected, the parking-lot fire was not caused by the lithium-ion battery. Company co-founder Henrik Fisker said, "This incident resulted from a single, faulty component, not our unique EVer powertrain or the engineering of the Karma. As this situation demonstrates, Fisker Automotive is dedicated to doing whatever is necessary to address safety and quality concerns." You can read the entire statement below.

Fisker is also saying that there is no discernible connection between the Woodside fire and another fire involving a Karma that happened in Texas in May. Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher told Bloomberg that, "The report for the Texas fire is not in the public domain and we do not have access to it. ... the real root cause [of the Texas fire] is unlikely to be determined."

The Karma has been recalled before, at the tail end of 2011, for problems with the battery pack, specifically the battery hose clamp. Some Karma battery packs also had some defective prismatic cells replaced by battery-maker A123 Systems.
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MEDIA STATEMENT -- Woodside, CA Incident ANAHEIM, CA -- August 18, 2012:

Fisker has completed a detailed investigation into the roadside fire involving a Fisker Karma sedan on August 10 in Woodside, CA.

The investigation conducted by Fisker engineers, working with an independent fire expert from Pacific Rim Investigative Services Group, has identified the root cause of the incident.

The investigation located the ignition source to the left front of the Karma, forward of the wheel, where the low temperature cooling fan is located. The final conclusion was that this sealed component had an internal fault that caused it to fail, overheat and start a slow burning fire.

Fisker has today voluntarily elected to conduct a recall with respect to this cooling fan unit. The company is working with the responsible supplier and this recall campaign is not expected to have a material financial impact on Fisker.

Fisker has already contacted its retailer network. Customers are expected to be contacted by retailers, ahead of their receiving formal notice from the company by mail, to have the cooling fan replaced with a unit that meets the required specifications. At the same time an additional fuse will be installed for added protection.

In their investigation, independent experts established that the incident was not caused by the Lithium-ion battery pack, new technology components, engine component packaging or unique exhaust routing of the Fisker Karma.

"We are committed to responding swiftly and decisively to events such as this to ensure total customer satisfaction," says Executive Chairman and Co-Founder, Henrik Fisker. "This incident resulted from a single, faulty component, not our unique EVer powertrain or the engineering of the Karma. As this situation demonstrates, Fisker Automotive is dedicated to doing whatever is necessary to address safety and quality concerns."

The owner of the car involved in the Woodside incident, Mr. Rudy Burger commented:

"I have been incredibly impressed with the way Fisker has handled this incident. I have personally started seven technology companies and know from direct experience that the US needs more innovative companies of this type, especially in the automobile sector.

"Fisker is a great company and one that I am personally planning to invest in. I look forward to getting behind the wheel of my next Fisker."