Aug. 20, 2012 — -- After the second of two mysterious fires in a Karma sedan, the government-backed electric car-maker Fisker has initiated a voluntary recall of its luxury vehicles.
In a statement, Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher said that Fisker engineers and an independent fire expert had "identified the root cause" of a fire that swept through a Karma parked outside a Woodside, California grocery store on August 10.
"The investigation located the ignition source to the left front of the Karma, forward of the wheel, where the low-temperature cooling fan is located," said the statement. "The final conclusion was that this sealed component had an internal fault that caused it to fail, overheat and start a slow burning fire."
Fisker announced a voluntary recall "with respect to this cooling fan unit" and said it had already contacted its retailers.
As first reported by Jalopnik.com, the owner found the vehicle burning in the parking lot when he returned from shopping. At the time, the Woodside Fire Department said the immediate cause of the blaze appeared to be "heat from powered equipment," and firefighters 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."
Ghiorso said Monday that he did not dispute Fisker's new findings about the origin of the blaze. The fire did not cause any injuries but did cause damage to an adjacent vehicle, according to the Woodside Fire Department.
The fire is the second mysterious blaze in a Fisker Karma in 2012. 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 its new statement on the cause of the Woodside fire, Fisker noted that its independent experts had determined the fire "was not caused by the lithium-ion battery pack."
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," 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 reiterated to ABC News earlier this month that Delaware "is still very much our first choice. We own it. We've cleared it out. We've actually made it production-ready."
Ormisher also said that negotiations with the DOE were ongoing. "We're hoping for a conclusion fairly soon," he said.