Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Fisker Automotive's Rough Week

Reporters gather around a Fisker Karma during the Los Angeles Auto show on November 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Getty Images

It's been a rough week for Henrik Fisker and his staff at Fisker Automotive.

First, the came out and said the Fisker Karma will get the equivalent of 52 miles per gallon. According to the EPA, a fully charged Karma can go 32 miles and 20 miles running on its gas assist engine. In the world of electric and range-extended electric cars, those are underwhelming numbers. The Chevy Volt is rated to get the equivalent of 93 MPG.

Yes, execs at Fisker will tell you they are happy with the EPA ratings, but let's be clear that mileage rating will not be a selling point.

As if that isn't bad enough, Fisker is now getting scrutinized for taking loans from the Department of Energy to develop next generation vehicles, then building its highly anticipated Karma model in Finland, not the U.S. Fisker has countered criticisms and questions about getting a $529 million loan from Washington by saying that the money is not being spent on assembling the Karma and that the Obama administration signed off on its plan to build the car overseas.

Much of the DOE loan for Fisker is supposed to be used to develop the company's next generation car that is part of the company's Project Nina. So far, we still haven't seen that car. In short, people are asking if Fisker is the next Solyndra? A suggestion the Fisker company has denied.

For as much interest as Fisker has generated over the last three years, you have to wonder what will happen over the next three years. The Karma is a niche vehicle. And yes, there will be enough people with deep pockets willing to buy a model for $97,000, but what about the sedan coming out of Project Nina. Will it have better performance? Will the DOE criticism and scrutiny blow over?

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