Safety unit probes Fisker plug-in car fire

Reuters News
Posted: May 24, 2012 2:04 PM
Safety unit probes Fisker plug-in car fire

(Reuters) - U.S. safety regulators are trying to determine the cause of a Texas garage fire that destroyed three vehicles, including a luxury plug-in sports car built by Fisker Automotive.

The Fisker Karma, which sells for more than $100,000, was parked in the garage of a newly built home in Sugar Land, Texas, when the fire broke out earlier this month.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent investigators to inspect the site, but has not yet opened a formal investigation.

"NHTSA is working with local authorities to evaluate whether there are any potential safety implications and will continue to monitor the situation," the safety agency said in a statement.

A statement from Fisker said NHTSA officials went to Texas to conduct a routine "field inquiry" into the cause of the fire.

"We also understand that the officials looked at other vehicles involved in the fire," Fisker said. "Fisker is working alongside NHTSA and insurance adjusters to help determine the exact cause."

The Karma's lithium-ion battery was intact after the fire, suggesting it was not a "contributing factor," Fisker previously said, adding that the Karma was not plugged in at the time of the fire.

The safety of electric car batteries has been in the spotlight since last year when U.S. safety regulators opened an investigation into General Motors Co's Chevrolet Volt after some battery packs caught fire during testing.

NHTSA closed that probe in January, saying electric cars do not pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered cars.

Fisker has faced tough questions about the reliability of the Karma after a spate of high-profile battery problems in recent months.

In March, a Karma battery failed during a test conducted by Consumer Reports magazine. Fisker recalled 239 Karma cars in December to fix a battery defect that raised the risk of a fire.

The Karma that was destroyed in the garage fire was purchased after the recall. No fires or injuries have been tied to the Karma battery, which is built by A123 Systems.

(Reporting By Deepa Seetharaman in Detroit; editing by Gunna Dickson)