Fisker Karma

A raft of production delays slowed the arrival of the first Fisker Karma. Though the initial round of vehicles were finally delivered, the delays mean that Fisker will only ship 1,500 of the four door plug-in hybrids in 2011, well short of the original target of 7,000.

There has been an effort to turn Fisker into a scandal and these lower production numbers are enough to fan the flames. Fisker has received loans totaling $529 million from the Department of Energy, a number that puts the company within $6 million of the assistance lent to failed solar-panel maker Solyndra. Fisker's partners at A123 Systems have been forced to chop their earnings estimates for 2011, since fewer Karmas out the door means fewer A123 batteries sold. To some, it all has the look of failure.

However, Fisker Chairman Ray Lane says that the issues in 2011 were a combination of difficulties faced by any start up – such as problems with the electrical system that didn't appear until production was underway – and some one-off disasters. For example, a flood soaked the initial shipment of leather delivered for the car's interior, leaving Fisker with 250 vehicles that were ready to go, except for seats, dashboards, steering wheels and every other surface that needed to be covered in cowhide.

With the Freshman year drawing to a close, Lane is convinced that Fisker will hit its mark in 2012. According to Lane, Fisker still plans to meet projections of 15,000 Karmas delivered in 2012. A123 is taking a more cautious approach, projecting around 7,000 vehicles. Either number would actually be very good for a car that has a base price of $96,000. Even the 7,000-unit sales number would exceed the annual sales of such well-known $100k sedans as the Maserati Quattroporte or Audi R8. Those cars don't have any green chic, though, and that might make all the difference.