(WOODSIDE, Calif.) — Fisker Automotive is investigating the cause of a fire that broke out in one of its Karma luxury hybrid sports sedans last week, the second mysterious blaze in a Karma and the latest setback for the Obama administration-backed electric car maker amid continuing questions over whether it will ditch plans to build vehicles in the United States — despite tens of millions of taxpayer dollars the administration funnelled to the company.
Fisker announced Monday that it had hired independent investigators from the Pacific Rim Investigative Group to work alongside its engineers to determine the exact cause of the fire, which occurred Friday in Woodside, California, near Palo Alto.
According to Jalopnik.com, which first reported the story, the Karma’s owner discovered his car ablaze in a grocery store parking lot after finishing shopping.
The fire did not cause any injuries but did cause damage to an adjacent vehicle, according to the Woodside Fire Department. The immediate cause of the blaze appeared to be, “heat from powered equipment,” according to the fire department, which cut the car’s battery cable after putting out the fire.
Woodside Fire Chief Dan Ghiorso told ABC News that the origin of the fire appeared to be inside the engine compartment, though Fisker said in a statement that it was determined to be outside the compartment in an area, “forward of the driver’s side front tire.”
Earlier this year, a Fisker Karma parked in the garage of a Sugar Land, Texas home caught fire, destroying a portion of the residence. Fire officials blamed the electric vehicle for the fire, according to media reports, but Fisker contended that neither the car nor its battery had anything to do with the fire, since the car was unplugged at the time of the fire and the battery pack was intact and still working after the blaze.
In March, another Karma broke down in the middle of a Consumer Reports road test, a failure that Fisker later said was due to a faulty battery.
More than 250 Fisker Karmas, out of the more than 1,000 that the company says are on the road, have been subject to a recall over the last year due to problems with the cars’ lithium ion batteries that could have led to fires in the $102,000 cars.
In 2010, the Department of Energy awarded Fisker a $529 million green-energy loan, in part to help purchase a shuttered General Motors plant in Delaware, where it predicted it would one day employ 2,000 auto workers to assemble a clean-burning gas-electric family car, known as the Atlantic.
Fisker collected nearly $200 million until February this year, when the government froze the loan because the company was failing to meet the government’s milestones. Most of those federal funds went into bringing the Karma, which Fisker assembles in Finland, to the U.S. market.
Company executives began hinting in February that Fisker would reconsider its plan and look for a cheaper place to build the Atlantic, despite the federal funding it received to build in the U.S.
“If Fisker no longer gets government monies, then obviously we are in a place where other options are open to us and have to be considered from a business perspective,” Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher told ABC News in May. “However, given the work that we have done at the plant in Delaware and the fact that we own it, it is still our primary option to consider.”
Ormisher did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on Tuesday.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Matt McFarland, CNN
Paul Menser, BizMojo Idaho