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A123 Systems To Replace Defective Fisker Karma Batteries

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On: Mon, Apr 2, 2012 at 11:51AM | By: Chris Weiss

A123 Systems To Replace Defective Fisker Karma Batteries

 Well it looks like non-recall performance upgrades -or whatever the manufacturer in question chooses to call them to avoid the hot-button term "recall" - will be a thing for the plug-in hybrid. GM is in the midst of performing what it calls a 'Customer Satisfaction Program,' relating to the Volt's battery, and now A123 Systems, the battery supplier for the Fisker Karma, is starting a 'field campaign' to replace battery packs.

Earlier this month, Consumer Reports detailed an issue that it had with a Fisker Karma during testing. The Karma broke down with less than 200 miles on its odometer. While CR was doing speedometer calibration, an error message flashed and the transmission subsequently locked up, requiring Fisker to come and tow the car away for repair.

In one of the worst pieces of press for a car that's been the poster child of bad press, Consumer Reports explained:

"We buy about 80 cars a year and this is the first time in memory that we have had a car that is undriveable before it has finished our check-in process...When we get the car back, we’ll film a First Drive video with our more traditional initial impressions. But so far, Fisker ownership is proving to be a bumpy ride."

Because of that well-publicized incident, A123 Systems has decided to replace problematic battery modules and packs. Certain modules and packs built at A123's Livonia, Michigan plant contain defective cells, "which can result in premature failure of the battery module or pack, including a decrease in performance and reduced battery life." The company has begun building replacement modules and packs and plans to get them to affected Fisker owners starting later in the week.

A123 says that the problematic cells do not affect batteries used in other cars like the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 and ActiveHybrid 3. The company doesn't detail how it will distribute the replacements in its press release, but those concerned can read more information on the progress of the campaign at A123 Systems' website. A123 CEO David Vieau says that the company believes that the problem is not a safety issue, though it sure sounds like it could be a significant problem for Fisker owners.

While not great news for the Fisker Karma, at least it's not a Fisker manufacturing issue. It is the second time that there's been an action in regard to A123 batteries. In December, Fisker recalled 239 models because of a coolant leakage issue that threatened to cause battery fires. The closely timed incidents have to make you wonder what A123's future supplying batteries is going to look like.

For its part, Fisker has announced an enhanced customer care program in light of the battery problems. That program includes a full, free battery replacement for affected Karma models and a warranty extension from 50 months/50,000 miles to 60 months/60,000 miles for North American customers.


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