Consumer Reports' relationship with the Fisker Karma had a rocky start: The pricey plug-in hybrid died with only 200 miles on the odometer.

After 48 hours in the repair shop, however, the venerable publication has been testing out the $108,000 green machine and has released some interesting -- and disappointing -- insights.

CR maintains that the design of the car is "simply stunning," but the praise essentially stops there. The range-extending gasoline engine gets very loud when the 22-kWh battery is depleted. And the Fisker's SUV-like 5,395-pound weight doesn't help with handling. On the inside, CR says the touchscreen is also less than ideal, with a grayscale look and plenty of menu flipping that "makes MyFord Touch (which CR has roundly criticized) look like a brilliant design."

Perhaps the most damning part of the report, however, is the actual owner complaints that have been uncovered, many of which were posted to Fisker news site,

According to posts on the site, Karma owners have been suffering from some pretty serious problems. Things like needing a new differential after less than 1,000 miles, a car shutting itself off at 35 mph and lots of trouble with the shifter.

One owner wrote the following:

"Just this weekend, for example, the speedometer and energy meter display disappeared when driving, on top of having several other rogue warning indicators appear last week. It is expected we'll be revisiting the dealership soon. We've had cars in the past that have been troublesome, but never anything like this."

This is an inauspicious start for the company, which has received Department of Energy loans, and is expected to launch a lower-priced model built at a Delaware manufacturing plant.

Fisker suffers from the growing pains that most start-up car companies endure. "There are fewer enterprises more complicated and more fraught than putting a reliable, government-approved automobile on the road," says AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley. "I am not sure there is a bright future for small start-up car companies; not when the established, well-resourced companies from Audi to Ford, Nissan, GM, Toyota and virtually every car company today is innovating really top-drawer electrics and hybrids and with established dealer networks," said Kiley.

Check out our Techsplanation article on how gas-electric hybrids work. Techsplanation: "Technology Explained. Simply"


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