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3 lessons Fisker can learn from Tesla

A visitor inspects a Fisker electric car during the 83rd Geneva Motor Show on March 6, 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland.

When environmentally-friendly car company Fisker debuted, it looked destined to flourish. 

The Fisker Karma, the company’s first car model, accelerated from 0 to 60 miles-per-hour in under six seconds, provided the electric equivalent of around 90 miles per gallon, and -- unlike other electric-powered cars at the time -- the Karma didn’t need to be constantly recharged.  

But the Karma flopped. Automotive review company Consumer Reports couldn’t provide a proper review of the car, since its Karma broke down before completing the reviewer's check-in process. Customers even sued Fisker because of low-production quality. 

Fisker, which hasn’t built a car in more than a year, doesn’t have enough money to pay back their loans to its investors and the U.S. Department of Energy. The company was often used as a poster child for poor government investment, due to its reliance on government stimulus funding, and is now on the auction block for its remaining assets. Valued at $2.2 billion in 2008, Fisker is accepting minimum bids for a paltry $30 million.

But, investors have already stated interest in the company. What should Fisker do differently this time around? Perhaps it can take a lesson from fellow electric-car company Tesla, which announced its first quarterly profit last May.  

1. Start small 

Whether it was due to increased government funding, or too-high expectations, Fisker's first car was plauged with problems and wasn't ready for mass-manufacturing.

Neither was Tesla's first car, the Tesla Roadster 

But, Tesla had another avenue for revenue, its car battery technology. Tesla worked for years on perfecting electric battery technology before launching its own vehicle, and according to MIT Technology Review, that's a big reason for Tesla’s current success: "Tesla’s lithium-ion battery pack technology is five to 10 years ahead of competitors when it comes to a passenger electric vehicle application, as measured by performance and cost to manufacture ... Tesla’s battery lead allows it to produce a better vehicle at more affordable price.”

Even during its down years, Tesla is able to use profits off battery technology, according to GigaOm, licensing it to companies like Toyota and Daimler: "Tesla has made hundreds of millions of dollars off of its development deals and has used these funds to push forward production of its cars." 

2. Start slow 

By the time Tesla launched the Tesla Roadster, Tesla had accumulated almost five years of experience, according to MotorTrend magazine. Compare that to the timeline of the Fisker Karma, which was announced by founder Henrik Fisker less than a year after the company's inception, and before its battery technology was fully completed. Though Fisker announced its first car would be ready by Christmas 2009, setbacks plagued its debut until July 2011.  

3. Have enough money 

Not every car company can have Elon Musk at its helm to fund a start-up through its initial down years. But, once the U.S Government froze its line of loans to Fisker, there was little else the company could do to bounce back. Tesla posted quarterly losses for ten years before posting its first profit. Will Fisker's next owner be able to do the same?

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I'm always wondering, why people like "Dfichana" are sharing those lies about Fisker. It starts to be boring. The truth is, Tesla uses already proved technology (made by others like Daimler etc.) and who knows how long does it take before we will see more battery packs on fire? Fisker doesn't have any BATTERY fires. And: Fisker has more the 160 technology patents pending (and Chinese know it), it would be more but the last CEO spent money for other staff, maybe waiting until his former boss Lutz can buy the company with Chinese money? But if no one see what the Fisker engineers achieved, it is a good Idea when the company moves to China.

This is exactly the points that I was pointing out years ago.

1. Look at the core technology. Tesla has loads of patents surrounding their car and company. Fisker does not, and most of their technology was outsourced.

2. In order for Fisker to succeed they needed near perfect execution for the Karma. They initially wanted to sell 20,000 per year, at over 100,000 price tag. That is more than Porsche does.

3. While the Fisker looked wickedly fast, for that type of money, it should have actually been faster. The looks did not match the performance.

While we are on looks, it appears that some of the features on the car were just there for looks or to give the car green cred. The solar panels for example, at best they could provide 200 miles a year, if in the best situation, but of course we are not at the equator.

Then there was the planning to sell 100,000 cars per year that start in the 50 K mark. Well, if the Volt, a car, 15 K less only manages to sell 30,000, how can you expect to sell 100,000. Economics and car sales don't really work that way.

Now we get the the Karma itself, even if it had the prerequisite speed, there were many, many issues that made it undesirable. The first of which was the fit and finish. There was a very good youtube review by a Fisker owner. Don't want to misquote him, but he said something about the panels not lined up properly. Then there was the dreaded Fisker infotainment system. There were reports of plugging in a USB crashing the system, and the controls being overly touchy. Then there was the major design flaws on the program ( the reviewer being a programmer was ticked off), and the colors. Power point 101, dont mix white letters on a light blue background.

Then there was the Fisker fires, route cause in both was a cooling fan I believe.

In closing, my feeling about the Karma was that they put the looks and design of the car in front of the actual engineering. The car was compromised due to this. Nothing wrong with doing that if the technology is well established, but it is a diaster when youndo it to new technology.

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