Maybe you remember the Karma. It is a high-tech “green energy” car made in Finland. It got a loan from the U.S. government for over half a billion dollars. You may have read about this in the Wall Street Journal. If not, let me remind you.
The loan was $529 million. The car was supposed to sell for $89,000. You might think this would have priced the car out of the range of the typical America taxpayer. That’s because you are a typical American taxpayer.
It seemed fair. After all, the government had lent Tesla Motors $465 million to build a $109,000 roadster. The Karma would be so much cheaper.
Al Gore signed up to buy one.
The designer promised that it would drive 50 miles on one charge.
That’s right: 50 whole miles. Or 25 miles out, and 25 back. Well, maybe 20. You always need a little headroom.
You must use gasoline to supplement the battery.
The Wall Street Journal added this:
Fisker’s top investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a veteran Silicon Valley venture-capital firm of which Gore is a partner. Employees of KPCB have donated more than $2.2 million to political campaigns, mostly for Democrats, including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign contributions.
Officials at Kleiner Perkins didn’t return requests for comment.
Well, the car has this little problem. It catches fire.
Also, it came in above the $89,000 sticker price. When a buyer spend over $100,000 for a snazzy-looking sports car, he does not expect it to catch fire.
Sticker shock is one thing. Catching fire is another. We read in the New York Times that the company is recalling 19 more of its cars. It already recalled 239 in December. Ten of these have already been delivered to buyers. (It’s not clear if Al Gore is one of them.)
In May a Karma parked in a garage near Houston caught fire. N.H.T.S.A. sent investigators to help determine the fire’s cause, but according to Lynda Tran, an agency spokeswoman, the investigation has not concluded. “The agency will continue to monitor the situation and will take appropriate action as warranted,” she wrote in an e-mail.
The problem, the company says, was traced to “improperly positioned hose clamps that might leak coolant onto the lithium-ion-battery unit.” But the company isn’t sure. They’re working on it.
More cars may have to be recalled.
The company says it will extend the warranty. That is good news.
Now, about that $529 million loan.
They’ll get back to the government on this one. One of these days, real soon now.