Fisker Karma Breakdown Leads to Lesson in Recalls

Like many auto writers, I was quick to jump on the recent story of the Fisker Karma breaking down during a Consumer Reports test. Yes, it was big news and a huge embarrassment to Fisker. Yes, the timing was terrible, and it was an incredibly hurtful public introduction to the Karma.

But the breakdown might not have been Fisker’s fault.

Automotive News reported yesterday that A123 Systems, the supplier of the Karma’s batteries, will recall the lithium-ion packs used to power the luxury sedan. The defective batteries are linked to the recent problems experienced by Fisker Karma owners, according to A123 CEO David Vieau. The company has taken full responsibility for the problem and will spend $55 million to make it right.

Recalls are a normal part of car ownership, but in most cases they are executed quietly and handled between the automaker, consumer and dealer. Sometimes large-scale recalls grab headlines and provide major PR headaches. The majority of recalls, though, fly under the radar and are up to the owner to seek out. Honda, for instance, recently recalled 1,300 2006 CR-V SUVs due to a possible improper weld on a control arm. Should the weld fail, steering would become difficult and lead to a potential crash.

That’s your typical recall. Boring but important.

Let’s say for a moment that you recently purchased an ’06 CR-V after finding a great deal in CarGurus’ used listings. Without actively searching for recalls on that specific year, make and model, you might never know the recall was issued, and you could potentially fall victim to that faulty weld. When buying a used car, it’s always a good idea to check with the automaker’s website for recalls, then check the vehicle’s maintenance records for proof that any required fixes were completed.

Considering how many parts from different suppliers go into a finished vehicle, it’s incredible how infrequently things go wrong. But when they do, it could be up to the owner to make sure any recalled parts get fixed.

Too bad not all recalls are brought on by highly publicized failures while the world is watching!

I once bought a ’94 Ford Mustang that was recalled for a head gasket issue, but I didn’t know until one blew. Has anything like that ever happened to you?


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1 Comment

  1. I’ve got a more annoying one right now. Seems the fuel level senders in the older Trailblazers like to fail, causing erratic fuel levels, including plunging to empty and prompting the low fuel warning and ultimately a check engine light. Problem is that they won’t fix it for free, but will only pay half. Not a very good deal for consumers.

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