Green Update–>Doubts About Fisker and Tesla

Fisker Karma profile

Fisker Karma

Here are two exciting green car companies that are using two very different approaches to create interest in their upcoming plug-in hybrid sedans.

Tesla is doing well at keeping up interest in its Model S. Most recent is the news that the company cut a deal for recycling used lithium-ion batteries in Europe. They put out a video of the car (see after the break), and testing has been very thorough, with final delivery expected in mid-2012.

The price is set at $57,400 (less the $7,500 federal tax credit), and the company expects to sell 20,000. Tesla stock is trading at 45 percent over its $17 June offering price.

There have been questions about Elon Musk’s role and strategy as chairman, but the company has handled PR issues generally well and has a viable marketing plan in place.

Fisker has stumbled in both PR and marketing. It managed to create a lot of good buzz about the Karma, but has waffled on both price and delivery dates. Cars were originally to be available in 2009, then a year later, now “early 2011.” Regular production is to start in March, but there is still no set delivery date.

Price of the car was first announced at $80,000. Now it’s $95,900 for the base version and $108,900 for the EcoChic (which has an interior larded up with stuff like “certified Rescued Wood™ from California wildfires,” I kid you not; see the order form).

One customer in Texas complains that neither his dealer nor Fisker notified him about the price changes. He wonders if the company is in trouble. Henrik Fisker blames delivery slowdowns on current global financial troubles and internal financing “slips.” But the company has missed a lot of deadlines.

Fisker bought an old GM plant for $18 million in October 2009, an incredible deal. But there have been no plans for production forthcoming, and right now the Karma will be built in Finland. Some 2,500 Delaware jobs are at stake.

We wonder whether these stumbles are the beginnings of bad karma for Fisker.

Fisker intends to sell 15,000 Karmas. Would you consider buying one?

—jgoods

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