Tesla Model S vs. Fisker Karma - 2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test
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2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Tesla Model S vs. Fisker Karma

June 12, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

As I drove our 2013 Tesla Model S home last night, I passed a Fisker Karma. After passing the Karma and giving a "Yup, we both love the environment and have $100K to spend on it" nod to the driver, I couldn't help thinking about the vastly different directions these companies are heading.

The Karma is on its way out, while the Model S is the favored new kid on the block (at least in Southern California), but why?

Fisker Automotive has been plagued with troubles like battery supply and recalls, the loss of over 300 Karmas during Hurricane Sandy, and the resignation of its founder Henrik Fisker. In April, Fisker reportedly laid off the majority of its workforce. Speculation for the company's future is bleak at best, and prices on used Karmas have plunged.

Tesla Motors, however, seems to be moving swiftly in the opposite direction. Tesla's government loan has been paid back, their supercharger network is poised for rapid expansion, and their sales are exceeding expectations. Around Santa Monica, Model S sedans are seemingly everywhere.

The Model S is a much faster car than the Karma, but it's also tethered by its range. You can drive it fast, but only for so long. The Karma was marketed as the most eco-friendly car on the planet with solar panels on the roof and naturally-fallen leaves in the door panels. Both cars are luxurious, large and (arguably) stylish. So what do you think is so different about these two companies and their flagship cars? Which car would you rather have?

Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 4,600 miles


Comments

  • tecnamtwin tecnamtwin Posts:

    The Tesla Model S is a much better car overall. Just ask Consumer Reports. The Karma had lots of problems and glitches with the infotainment and car systems. It was a prototype that was rushed into production. If they would have spent more time perfecting it, I think that it would have been a fairly good car, albeit with only four seats and limited trunk space. It's like the Porsche Panamera except without the cargo space or blistering performance. The idea was awesome, but the execution was less than stellar. It's a pity that they had battery problems which bankrupted their supplier A123 Systems, and then lost 300 cars to Hurricane Sandy. The Fisker Atlantic concept was a really good looking car, and we can always use more beautiful cars on the road.

  • zcalvert zcalvert Posts:

    It's very simple. One company is run by people who did their homework and prepared properly before starting a new car company. The other was not.

  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    The Karma is essentially a heavier, slower, less-efficient, more costly repackage of the Volt drivetrain, but without the engineering refinement needed to compete. I'd take the Model S in a heartbeat.

  • wag0nguy wag0nguy Posts:

    Space efficiency. When sitting in the karma it feels like a compact sedan even if it has the presence on the outside but inside you make a lot of compromises. When you sit in the model S it feels comfortable and airy and uncompromising. Also Tesla as a company has had years to perfect there brand. They started with other cars before the brought out the model S. They knew there market. Fisker has been pushing the same car through pipelines for 5 years.

  • zhangrenhou zhangrenhou Posts:

    They're both nice cars. It would be a difficult choice. The Tesla is more versatile, though, so I'd probably go with that one.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    The company management, and string of disasters (quality issues, loss of vehicles in NY, etc.) is what eventually led to Fisker's impending downfall. There's nothing wrong with the Karma's concept save for quality issues, especially since it's a first product from the company. It looks great. Tesla did not have an easy time of it when it started a decade ago either, because the Roadster was a bit of a rolling science experiment since Elon and Martin Eberhard (remember him?) butted heads over issues like transmission design and how to run the company. Cars were updated relentlessly, and I'm assuming a ton of lessons were learned about vehicle design at that point. It took Elon's own money and probably lots of sleepless nights on everyone's part to get the Model S out and into production.

  • jim_in_nj_ jim_in_nj_ Posts:

    "Yup, we both love the environment and have $100K to spend on it" I don't understand why everyone has assumes that people who buy electric vehicles (EVs) do it for environmental reasons. I have seen a poll where the #1 reason for people buying a plug-in was to use American-sourced fuel instead of mostly-imported oil. Also high on the list is the instant torque, delivered with no noise vibration or harshness. Yes, perhaps there is a little environmental benefit to EV's, but that's not often the main reason most people buy these cars.

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    I don't see how you can say the Karma was rushed into production. Fiskar was showing prototypes of the essentially finished body for YEARS before the car finally became available for sale. As far as why the Karma doesn't sell well (1) production has been suspended (2) people prefer to buy 6-figure cars from companies that are likely to stay in business (3) there are more Tesla dealers (4) as a full electric the Model S provides FAR greater bragging rights for 'look at how green I am' crowd and (5) the model S is actually a good car. I have seen over a dozen in the Chicago area in the past month. I have seen 2 Karma's period despite living less than 10 miles from a Fiskar dealer.

  • jeffhre jeffhre Posts:

    It's hard to know what problems will befall a start-up company. The auto business is incredibly capital intensive anyway and bankers wouldn't even lend to dear old mommy during the credit crunch. The problems with A123 cut badly into reserves for the start-up with little in reserve to begin with. The earlier delays caused the treasury to stop funding the DOE loans. And ironically, Hurricane Sandy killed hundreds of cars that were nearly ready for sale. Without these incidents Fisker might still be quietly picking up customer cars and iterating the issues that created their quality problems.

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